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A Compendium of Selections From the Writings 
of NineJPre-emincnt SqottislfiPhuosophers, 




Sommer Robinson, Ph. EK, Litt/D 



An Exposition-University Book 


"The present tendencies in American life toward 
centralized government with the consequent loss 
of individual liberty and the disposition toward an 
irrational approach to life . . . might very well 
send thoughtful people to the Scottish wellsprings 
of liberty for a reasonable corrective which is long 
overdue. All of us would do well to have a fresh 
look at Hume and McCosh, Hutcheson and Stew- 
art, and the perennial Adam Smith, as we attempt 
to think anew of the goals and principles of the 
American way of life." 

— Perry E. Gresham, LL.D., Litt.D. 
President, Bethany College 
President, International Convention of 
the Disciples of Christ 

The Story of 
Scottish Philosophy 

A Compendium of Selections From the 

Writings of Nine Pre-eminent Scottish 

Philosophers, With Biobibliographical Essays, 

Compiled by 
Daniel Sommer Robinson, Ph.D. 


"The immortality of our common nature [is] 
that universal interest which gives to us a sort 
of intellectual existence in scenes and times the 
most remote, and makes the thoughts and 
emotions of others as it were a part of our own 
beings — uniting the past, the present, and the 
future, and blending man with man wherever 
he is to be found." 

This humanitarian principle, quoted from 
the early-eighteenth-century works of Dr. 
Thomas Brown included in this compilation, is 
the foundation of the "common sense" school 
of philosophy which flourished among Scottish 
thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth cen- 
turies. Further impelled by the powerful David 
Hume and nurtured by Scottish culture, these 
men displayed more than creative, intellectual 
minds: they proved themselves to be erudite 
scholars and pioneer humanitarians as well. 
These nine philosophers approached the social, 
religious, economic, moral, and metaphysical 
aspects of life in the free and open manner of 
real Socratic discussion. Many of America's 

(continued on back flap) 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

By Dr. Robinson 

The Principles of Reasoning 

The Principles of Conduct 

Crucial Issues in Philosophy 

Editor of 

Josiah Royce's Logical Essays 
The Story of Scottish Philosophy 

Sir William Hamilton 

Adam Smith 

James Frederick Ferrier 

Dugald Stewart 

David Hume 

Francis Hutcheson 

Thomas Brown 
Thomas Reid 
James McCosh 

The Story of 
Scottish Philosophy 

A Compendium of Selections From the Writings 

of Nine Pre-eminent Scottish Philosophers, With 

Biohiblio graphical Essays 

Compiled and Edited, and With an Introduction 
and a Supplementary Essay 

by Daniel Sommer Robinson, Ph.D., Litt.D. 

Director Emeritus, 
School of Philosophy, University of Southern California 

Foreword by Perry E. Gresham, ll.d., litt.d. 



i -. i N.C. 

An Exposition-University Book 


This book is dedicated to the memory of 

all those sages 

whose writings it contains, 

"of whom the world was not worthy," 

"who, being dead, yet speaketh." 

Exposition Press Inc., 386 Park Avenue South, New York 16, N.Y. 


© 1961 by Daniel Sommer Robinson. All rights reserved, including 
the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form, except for 
short quotations in critical essays and reviews. Manufactured in the 
United States of America. 


There is nothing local about philosophy. Wisdom transcends 
the barriers of nations, periods, tongues, and civilizations. Yet 
the history of thought defines some interesting configurations of 
ideas which are readily identified with times and places as well 
as with persons. Greek philosophy is a basic concept in intel- 
lectual history, and German philosophy has illustrated the inter- 
action of language, locality, temper, and point of view along 
with various other cultural factors which give meaning to the 
term. Scotland provides a less-striking identity of thought and 
culture, since it is not unique in language, nor has it enjoyed 
the isolation characterized by certain other communities. Never- 
theless, there is a definite and identifiable set of ideas, attitudes, 
and insights which are as Scottish as reformed theology, oat- 
meal, and certain potables. This Scottish Philosophy deserves a 
wider consideration in the intellectual market place, inasmuch 
as it bears on every phase of Western culture and exercises a 
substantial influence on contemporary affairs. It is most fortu- 
nate, therefore, that Professor Robinson has found time to bring 
the stalwart thinkers of that little island together in a single 
volume with selected writings from each. This is a distinct con- 
tribution to the great conversation. 

It is still more fortunate that a seasoned scholar has under- 
taken the selection. Criticism is the art of the mature and dis- 
ciplined mind rather than the prerogative of an aspiring bright 
young pilgrim. Only the man who has long surveyed the clusters 
of thought which mark the intellectual adventures of mankind 
is able to see Scottish Philosophy in a world perspective of 
space and time. D. S. Robinson has a long and honorable career 
in study, teaching, and writing to draw from as he presents the 
best of Old Scotia. The best minds of more than hajf a century 
have been his intellectual companions for conversation, criticism, 
and debate. His penetrating analyses of major philosophical 
fields and ideas have become a part of the literature of the 


discipline. His hundreds of students will find reward in this 
systematic presentation of Scottish Philosophy, which has been 
suggested in classwork and lecture but not fully developed. 

I first met Dr. Robinson when I was a young teacher at Texas 
Christian University. I was so charmed by his genial manner 
and sensible philosophy that I made inquiry about some grad- 
uate study with him at Indiana University. Twenty-five years 
later it was my privilege to welcome him to the Bethany College 
faculty as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy. He created so 
much interest in his courses that enrollments had to be limited. 
The fact that Bethany College is deliberately related to the Uni- 
versity of Glasgow, where Alexander Campbell studied, gave 
additional interest to the Robinson lectures in Scottish Philos- 
ophy. The added fact that Professor Robinson is a long-time 
member of the religious body known variously as the Christian 
Churches (Disciples of Christ), or Churches of Christ, of which 
Campbell was a pioneering founder, created additional interest 
among the various people associated with Bethany College. The 
college was founded by Campbell in 1840. 

The Christian Churches would do well to study the Scottish 
sources of the rational philosophy which Campbell brought with 
him from Glasgow. There is a strong measure of Adam Smith 
in the political ethics of the communion. Thomas Reid exercised 
a substantial influence over the thought of the pioneers who set 
the norms whereby the congregations have developed. The 
reasonable approach to worship and Bible study came from the 
moon of common sense which dominated the University of Glas- 
gow at the turn of the century when Thomas and Alexander 
Campbell were students. The economic and social philosophy 
which underlies A. Campbell's argument against Robert Owen 
on the occasion of the famous debate in 1829 is an interesting 
blend of Scottish thought adapted to the frontier in America. 

Americans who cherish the intellectual heritage prevalent in 
the nascent period of this Republic would do well to take a new 
and deliberate look at the Scottish ideas which have been some- 
what neglected on account of a preoccupation with the French 
Enlightenment as a challenge to and modification of Puritan 


thought. The real and practical approach to early American 
affairs has a striking similarity to the principles expounded by 
the nine philosophers who have found a place in Professor Rob- 
inson's hall of fame. I refer to business leaders such as Andrew 
Carnegie, along with statesmen such as the Adams family and 
Alexander Hamilton. The affinity of early American letters for 
the Scottish ways of thinking is very well illustrated in Emer- 
son's esteem and affection for Thomas Carlyle. 

The present tendencies in American life toward centralized 
government with the consequent loss of individual liberty and 
the disposition toward an irrational approach to life illustrated 
by the new interest in Kirkegaard in religion and Freud in psy- 
chology, as well as a fascination with Marx in social and eco- 
nomic thought, might very well send thoughtful people to the 
Scottish wellsprings of liberty for a reasonable corrective which 
is long overdue. All of us would do well to have a fresh look at 
Hume and McCosh, Hutcheson and Stewart, and the perennial 
Adam Smith as we attempt to think afresh the goals and prin- 
ciples of the American way of life. 

Perry E. Gresham, President 
Bethany College 
Bethany, West Virginia 


The nine pre-eminent Scottish philosophers, excerpts from 
whose writings constitute the major part of this book, are all 
original thinkers who have made rich contributions to the de- 
velopment of Western philosophy. The Introduction indicates 
what some of the legacies they have left us are, and the excerpts 
clearly state the positions of each author on philosophical issues 
that are as important to readers of the middle of the twentieth 
century as they were to students of philosophy living when 
these men wrote. 

My interest in the Story of Scottish Philosophy was especially 
stimulated by studies I made in the Library of Bethany College 
while I was serving as Visiting Professor of Philosophy on the 
John Hay Whitney Foundation, and I am deeply indebted to 
President Perry Epler Gresham and the Foundation for the 
opportunity to serve in that honorable position. 

Here I desire also to acknowledge my indebtedness to my 
wife, Oma Glasburn Robinson, for typing the material and for 
assisting me in numberless ways in preparing it for publication. 
I am also indebted to my friend Mr. Wallace R. Nethery, Li- 
brarian of the Hoose Library of Philosophy at the University of 
Southern California, for assembling the pictures that are re- 
produced as the frontispiece. 

The picture of Professor Ferrier is here reproduced by 
courtesy of St. Andrews University and that of President McCosh 
by courtesy of Princeton University. The other pictures are from 
various volumes of the authors' writings in the Hoose Library 
of Philosophy. 

D. S. R. 


Introduction Daniel Sommer Robinson 15 


Francis Hatcheson 

The Man and His Work Noah Porter 29 

Concerning the Finer Powers of Perception 

Francis Hutcheson 31 
Concerning the Moral Sense, or Faculty of Perceiving 
Moral Excellence, and Its Supreme Objects 

Francis Hutcheson 42 


David Hume 

The Man and His Work M. A. Mikkelsen 54 

Of the Origin of the Natural Virtues and Vices 

David Hume 57 

The Origin of Our Ideas David Hume 61 

The Ideas of Cause and Effect and Necessary Connection 

David Hume 64 

Scepticism David Hume 69 


Adam Smith 

The Man and His Work Noah Porter 79 

Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiment 

Dueald Stewart 82 

Of the Manner in Which We Judge of the Propriety or 
Impropriety of the Affections of Other Men, by Their 
Concord or Dissonance With Our Own Adam Smith 96 

Of the Influence and Authority of the General Rules of 
Morality, and That They Are Justly Regarded as the 
Laws of the Deity Adam Smith 105 


Thomas Reid 

The Man and His Work Noah Porter 118 

The Correspondence Between David Hume and Thomas 

Reid 130 
Of Mr. Hume's Opinion of the Idea of Power 

Thomas Reid 134 

Philosophy and Common Sense Thomas Reid 139 

chapter v 
Dugald Stewart 


The Man and His Work Noah Porter 151 

Four Objections to Reid's Philosophy of Common Sense 

Answered Dugald Steiuart 158 

Concerning the Fundamental Laws of Human Belief 

Dugald Stewart 173 
Dugald Stewart on Hindu Philosophy 

Daniel Sommer Robinson 180 


Thomas Rrown 


The Man and His Work Noah Porter 190 

The Sceptical System of Berkeley and Hindu Philosophy 

Thomas Rrown 198 

The Nature of Consciousness Thomas Rrown 205 


Sir William Hamilton 

The Man and His Work Noah Porter 214 

The Scottish Philosophy Sir William Hamilton 220 

The Nature of Consciousness Sir William Hamilton 228 

The Unconditioned Sir William Hamilton 236 


James Frederick Ferrier 

The Man and His Work Noah Porter 239 

What a System of Philosophy Is James Frederick Ferrier 242 
The Primary Law or Condition of All Knowledge 

James Frederick Ferrier 245 
Ignorance and The Law of All Ignorance 

James Frederick Ferrier 252 

What Absolute Existence Is James Frederick Ferrier 258 


James McCosh 


The Man and His Work Harvey Gates Townsend 265 

Characteristics of the Scottish School and Comparison of 
It With the Critical Philosophy of Kant 

James McCosh 271 
First and Fundamental Truths James McCosh 280 

Index 287 


The Story of Scottish Philosophy is an integral and a signifi- 
cant, although an overly neglected, fragment of the complete 
story of philosophy. This compendium of biographies, bibliog- 
raphies, and typical selections from the best writings of nine 
pre-eminent Scottish philosophers of the eighteenth and nine- 
teenth centuries aims to help bring about a correction of this 
neglect. It makes available in a single reader's-digest volume not 
only authoritative summaries of their writings by competent 
scholars but a sufficient number of selections from the extant 
philosophical literature penned by these distinguished thinkers 
to give readers a clear understanding of the unique contribu- 
tions which they have made to the history of philosophical ideas, 
opinions, theories, and especially criticisms. 

Professors and students in universities, colleges, junior col- 
leges, and other institutions of higher learning, as well as all 
serious readers with scholarly and intellectual interests, will 
surely welcome the appearance of such a compendium. It should 
be useful as source material for courses in religion, theology, 
and philosophy. It will also be highly informative to anyone 
desirous of obtaining a firsthand knowledge of this distinctively 
Scottish philosophical literature. Librarians will find this com- 
pendium suitable for use as a reference book on Scottish 

It is rather a unique paradox that David Hume, who is every- 
where and by every competent authority recognized as the great- 
est Scottish philosopher, is himself not really a member of the 
so-called Scottish School of Philosophy. Nevertheless, the writ- 
ings of the chief members of this School abound with quotations 
from his works, and with interpretations, criticisms, and com- 
ments on his skeptical doctrines and theories. As a matter of 
fact, one of the most instructive aspects of this literature, an 
example of which will be discussed presently, is the way in 
which one representative of the Scottish School will correct and 


try to set right another with respect to some particular inter- 
pretation of Hume. Consequently, although he is not really a 
member of the Scottish School of Philosophy, Chapter II con- 
tains a biographical account and selections from his writings. 
Recently there has been a pronounced revival of interest in 
Hume's philosophy. Certainly no student of Hume can afford 
to ignore what the members of the Scottish School have written 
about him. Readers wishing to make a deeper study of this 
movement of thought will find T. E. Jessop's Bibliography of 
David Hume and of Scottish Philosophy comprehensive and re- 
liable. S. A. Garvie's excellent critical study The Scottish Philos- 
ophy of Common Sense (Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, 1960) 
is also recommended. 

In the chapter on Thomas Reid I have included a selection 
entitled "Of Mr. Hume's Opinion of the Idea of Power," which 
is a fair sample of the way in which the founder of the School 
criticized Hume. Reid's attack has been answered in behalf of 
Hume by Thomas Brown in Section VI of his now classic treatise 
entitled An Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect. Brown 
gives there an interesting argument which is here briefly sum- 
marized, since it is an informative illustration of how the founder 
of the Scottish School differs from one of his later ablest dis- 
ciples with regard to one of Hume's most important theories. 
Reid claimed that Hume denied that we have any idea of power 
in the cause to produce its effects, on the ground that we can 
find no sense impression in our experience which we can trace 
to this supposed power. To clarify the issue Brown constructs 
a pair of syllogisms to prove that Reid's interpretation of Hume 
is erroneous. 

Reid's Syllogism Hume's Syllogism 

Major Premise: We have no idea We have no idea which is not a 

which is not a copy of some copy of some impression. 


Minor Premise: We have no im- We have an idea of power. 

pression of power. 

Conclusion: Therefore, we have Therefore, we have an impression 

no idea of power. of power. 


Brown points out that according to Hume we do have a sense 
impression, from which the idea of power may be said to be 
copied "in the feeling of a customary connection of ideas, by 
which, after the experience of the sequence of two events, the 
mind passes readily from the idea of one to the idea of the other." 
This is a so-called law of association of ideas by cause and effect, 
and Brown agrees with Hume in reducing causality to the tem- 
poral sequence which the law embodies. Nevertheless, Brown 
agrees fundamentally with Reid against Hume in rejecting the 
major premise that is common to both of the above syllogisms, 
and in treating cause and effect as an intuitive and self-evident 
belief that is implanted in original human nature by the Creator. 
Contemporary students of Hume would agree with Brown that 
Reid misinterpreted Hume's theory of causality, but many of 
them accept the dogma of empirical verifiability and reject the 
theory that causality is an intuitive belief, whereas this is a 
basic theory that is shared by practically all the representatives 
of the Scottish School of Philosophy. On this point see especially 
the selection from Dugald Stewart entitled "The Fundamental 
Laws of Human Belief." 

Thomas Reid has been severely criticized for his attitude 
toward Hume bv another great Scottish philosopher, the late 
Professor Norman Kemp Smith. In his The Philosophy of David 
Hume (London: Macmillan 6c Co., Ltd., 1949) tins distinguished 
Kantian scholar points out what he calls the Reid-Beattie error 
in the interpretation of the origin of Hume's skeptical philos- 
ophy, which consisted in their charging him with an "unconsid- 
ered acceptance of the hypothesis commonly entitled the 
'theory of ideas'" (p. 4). Kemp Smith designates his own the- 
ory the Hutchesonian. He argues persuasively that Francis Hut- 
cheson's basic idea that reason, understanding, and intellect are 
subordinate to sentiment, desire, and volition was the real source 
of Hume's philosophy, and that he was originally inspired bv 
Hutcheson's moral philosophy in the writing of his Treatise of 
Human Nature. Kemp Smith says that Hume followed Hut- 
cheson in reversing "the roles hitherto ascribed to Reason and 
Feeling respectively" (p. S). Consequently it is a mistake to 


treat Hume's ethical theories as secondary, and his development 
of the Locke-Berkeley theory of ideas as primary, in making an 
over-all evaluation of his philosophy, as Reid and the other 
members of the Scottish School did. Smith gives special at- 
tention to Reid's letter to Hume, claiming that it is naive and 
shows a complete lack of understanding of Hume's deeper 
thought, as do also his comments on Hume's Inquiry Concern- 
ing Human Understanding. Reid was born one year before 
Hume, but he lived twenty years after Hume's death in 1776, 
during which period he wrote his most systematic treatise, The 
Essay on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785). 

Kemp Smith's use of Reid's letter in support of his Hutche- 
sonian theory of the origin of Hume's philosophy is a justifica- 
tion of the inclusion in this compendium of the two letters 
exchanged by Hume and Reid (see Chapter IV). It also justifies 
beginning the book with selections from two contemporaries of 
Hume, Francis Hutcheson and Adam Smith. Both of these writ- 
ers, however, as well as Hume, should be called precursors 
rather than founders of the Scottish School of Philosophy. Adam 
Smith was a close friend of David Hume, and they shared the 
impartial-spectator theory of ethics, which is well expounded 
in the selections from Adam Smith in Chapter III. Hume also 
corresponded with Francis Hutcheson concerning the ethical 
part of the Treatise. 1 Nevertheless, the founders of the Scottish 
School are Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart. 

The well-known and oft-quoted statement of Immanuel Kant 
that Hume awoke him from his dogmatic slumbers raises the 
question of the relation of the Scottish School of Philosophy 
to Kantianism. Here we find Dugald Stewart in sharp opposition 
to Sir William Hamilton. Admitting that he found it impossible 
to understand Kant's writings and that, not knowing German, he 
could only read his Latin treatise and a Latin translation of his 
German works and that his knowledge of Kant was largely 

1 All of these letters have been published in J.V.T. Grieg's The Letters 
of David Hume, 2 volumes, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1932. 


gleaned from secondary sources, Stewart did not hesitate to 
pronounce a severe judgment on the Kantian philosophy, to 
dwell on its obscurity, and to predict its speedy downfall. On 
the other hand, Sir William Hamilton, who was one of the most 
learned philosophers of the nineteenth century and editor of the 
Works of both Reid and Stewart, studied the works of Kant 
assiduously and made a serious but not altogether successful 
attempt to incorporate Kantian doctrines into his own system 
of ideas. As Professor N. K. Smith points out, "the parallel 
between Reid and Kant is . . . only partial and may prove mis- 
leading . . ." (p. 7). 

A third controversy raged within the School over the nature 
of consciousness, sensation, and perception. What Reid affirmed, 
Stewart modified and Brown rejected, while Sir William Hamil- 
ton strongly objected to Brown's ideas. Sir William added volum- 
inous notes to his editions of the Collected Works of both Reid 
and Stewart to elucidate their positions and purge their exposi- 
tions of what he took to be errors in their conceptions of 
perception, sensation, and consciousness. Here is an example of 
how he dealt with consciousness. In Lecture IX of his Lectures 
on Metaphysics, he discusses the terms self and ego and says 
"they are absolutely convertible." He then inserts his own trans- 
lation of a notable passage from the First Alcibiades of Plato, 
the genuineness of which is questionable, to clarify this state- 
ment. Following is a very brief portion of the dialogue: 

Socrates. Now, then, does not a man use his whole body? 

Alcibiades. Unquestionably. 

Socrates. But we are agreed that he who uses and that which 

is used are different? 
Alcibiades. Yes. 

Socrates. A man is, therefore, different from his body? 
Alcibiades. So I think. 
Socrates. What is the man? 
Alcibiades. I cannot say. 
Socrates. You can at least say that the man is that which uses 

the body? 


Alcibiades. True. 

Socrates. Now, does anything use the body but the mind? 

Alcibiades. Nothing. 

Socrates. The mind is, therefore, the man? 

Alcibiades. The mind alone. 

And Sir William adds: "To the same effect Aristotle asserts that 
the mind contains the man, not the man the mind," and he goes 
on to quote Cicero, Hierocles, Macrobius, and others to the 
same effect. 

In evaluating this argument, one cannot help wondering 
why Sir William Hamilton did not refer to Aristotle's famous 
saying in Book IX, Chapter 9, of the Nicomachean Ethics, the 
genuineness of which is not questionable, to prove his major 
thesis, since this is the passage that was used by St. Thomas 
Aquinas in support of essentially the same theory. For this say- 
ing is strikingly similar to Sir William's own statement— indeed, 
even more so than the above dialogue from the First Alcibiades. 
Aristotle wrote: "And with respect to all the other functions, 
in like manner there is something which perceives that we are 
exercising them, so that we can perceive that we perceive and 
think that we think. But this [perceiving] that we perceive or 
think, is perceiving that we exist; for existing, as we said [Chap- 
ter 7], consists in perceiving or thinking." (Grant's translation.) 
In the lecture on "The Nature of Consciousness" reprinted be- 
low, Sir William Hamilton writes: ". . . this knowledge, which 
I, the subject, have of these modifications of my being, and 
through which knowledge alone these modifications are possible, 
is what we call consciousness. The expressions I know that 1 
know, I know that I feel, I know that I desire, are thus trans- 
lated by I am conscious that I know, I am conscious that I feel, 
I am conscious that I desire." Of course Aristotle did not say 
that perceiving that we perceive is consciousness, since, as Sir 
William Hamilton says, Descartes was the first philosopher to 
use the term consciousness, but we can see clearly that Aristotle 
meant just what Sir William asserts. And so did St. Thomas and 
Descartes and many other philosophers. I have discussed this 
whole issue at some length in my essay "Precursors of Descartes' 


Cogito Argument." (See Chapter xxvi of my Crucial Issues in 
Philosophy [Boston: Christopher Publishing House].) 

In spite of all of these and other differences among the lead- 
ing representatives of the Scottish School there are enough 
doctrines on which they are in substantial agreement to justify 
treating this century-and-a-half-long movement of thought as a 
single school of philosophy. 

The selection from Sir William Hamilton in Chapter VII on 
the general characteristics of "The Scottish Philosophy" gives 
a good idea of what these doctrines are, as does also the selec- 
tion with a similar title by James McCosh in Chapter IX. Sir 
William indicates how influential the School was in France and 
even in Italv. The writings of Dugald Stewart and Sir William 
Hamilton and their numerous disciples also had a far-reaching 
influence in Canada and the United States. From about 1750 
to 1900 this School arose and flourished. It has left a rich 
deposit of philosophical material in English literature by some 
of the most gifted and best-informed philosophers of modern 
times. Surely this literature is worthy of the attention of all who 
are interested in serious discussions of the deeper problems of 
human existence. 

It is well known among leaders of the Church of Christ, or 
Disciples of Christ, which is the largest Protestant group 
founded in the United States, that the founders, Thomas Camp- 
bell and his illustrious son, Alexander Campbell, who was also 
founder and the first President of Bethany College in West 
Virginia, were both strongly influenced by the Scottish philos- 
ophers. This is rightly emphasized by Professor Lester G. Mc- 
Allister in his authoritative biography Thomas Campbell: Man of 
the Book (St. Louis: Bethany Press, 1954). Dr. McAllister 
writes: "Reid's philosophy undoubtedly had a profound influence 
on the later development of Thomas Campbell's deepest convic- 
tions" (p. 27). President Perry Epler Gresham, of Bethany Col- 
lege, who formerly taught philosophy at Texas Christian 
University and is currently President of the International Con- 
vention of the Disciples of Christ, properly emphasized the 
indebtedness of the Campbell founding fathers to the Scottish 


philosophers in his scholarly address, entitled "Proud Heritage 
From Scotland," delivered at the World Convention of Christian 
Churches at Edinburgh, Scotland, August 3, 1960. He referred 
to "the common sense tradition of Locke and Reid which Camp- 
bell brought to religion." 2 A careful examination of Alexander 
Campbell's contributions to the M Menial Harbinger, as well as 
his other writings, especially his famous debates, will reveal 
many evidences that his underlying philosophical ideas were 
communicated to him by his reading of John Locke and the 
Scottish philosophers. Of course, what the Campbells and their 
followers, as well as many other religionists, liked about the 
Scottish philosophers was their basing all valid religious knowl- 
edge on divine revelation, well expressed in the motto of the 
Disciples of Christ: "Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; 
where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent." 

Professor O. W. Wight prepared a one-volume collection of 
the writings of Sir William Hamilton which was widely used 
as a textbook. It was copyrighted in 1853 and the sixth edition 
appeared in 1860. The title page bears the inscription "For the 
use of Schools and Colleges." Another evidence of the im- 
portance of Sir William Hamilton's philosophy in the United 
States is the fact that Henry James, Sr., published a critical 
review entitled "The Works of Sir William Hamilton" in Put- 
nam's Magazine in November, 1853 (Vol. II, pp. 470-81). Later 
textbooks by James McCosh and by other representatives of the 
Scottish School were in wide use. Throughout most of the 
nineteenth century Protestant ministerial students in the colleges 
and seminaries of this country were schooled in this philosophy. 

In making the selections for this compendium from the 
extensive literature in winch this philosophy is expounded and 
defended, I have aimed to include selections that would indi- 
cate how one representative differs from another but that at the 
same time would emphasize the threads of connection that are 
more or less common to all the representatives of the School. 

2 A printed copy of this important address can be obtained by address- 
ing a request to President Gresham, Bethany College, Bethany, West 


To assist the reader in understanding the selections and the 
importance of their respective authors, I have put at the begin- 
ning of each chapter a biographical sketch and summary of 
each representative's philosophy by a competent authority. The 
summary of James McCosh is taken from the late Professor 
Harvey Gates Townsend's Philosophical Ideas in the United 
States (American Book Co., 1934), a widely used textbook pre- 
pared for courses in American Philosophy. In the case of Hume, 
I have used the biographical sketch by H. A. Mikkelsen from 
Warner's Library of the World's Best Literature. The other 
summaries are taken, with a few omissions, from the excellent 
account entitled Philosophy in Great Britain and America by 
Noah Porter (1811-92). This essay was especially prepared to 
serve as a supplement to the English translation by George S. 
Morris of Friedrich Ueberweg's monumental History of Philos- 
ophy. (See History of Modern Philosophy [Scribner, Armstrong 
& Co., 1877], Vol. II, Appendix I, pp. 349-460. Chapters V, VI, 
and VII deal with the Scottish School.) Because this important 
essay appeared as an appendix to supplement Ueberweg's His- 
tory of Philosophy, it has been unduly neglected, although Noah 
Porter is recognized as having a prominent place in the history 
of American Philosophy. Professor Herbert W. Schneider writes: 
"Noah Porter was in many ways the greatest and most erudite 
of the professors of philosophy" (History of American Philos- 
ophy [New York: Columbia University Press, 1946], p. 245). 
Noah Porter was Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy 
at Yale University from 1846 to 1871, when he was elected 
President of the University, in which position he served with 
distinction until his retirement in 1886. His summaries of seven 
of the representative Scottish philosophers, from whose writings 
I have made selections for this compendium, are especially 
valuable for four reasons: (i) They give the essential biograph- 
ical data concerning each man. (ii) They list each author's 
writings, and contain other useful biographical addenda, (iii) 
Porter gives adequate and scholarly summaries of the major 
writings of each philosopher, (iv) They contain pertinent criti- 
cal comments and evaluations by Porter that are objective, sym- 


pathetic, fair, and dependable and which are all the more 
valuable because it is obvious that he is not a follower of the 
Scottish School. I have been guided by Porter's comments in 
making some of the selections. 

The supplementary essay to Chapter V entitled "Dugald 
Stewart on Hindu Philosophy" was written during the winter 
of 1959. It brings together a number of quotations from Sir 
William Jones on Hindu Philosophy and comments of Stewart 
on them. It also quotes a long and curious letter written to 
Stewart by his friend Sir James Macintosh, who was an im- 
portant member of the Scottish School, expressing the author's 
opinion as to the origin of the Vedanta Philosophy. The reader's 
attention is also called to Thomas Brown's reference to Sir 
William Jones and his comment on the Hindu Philosophy at 
the end of the first selection from his writings in Chapter VI. 
In view of the recent emphasis on East-West Philosophy, and 
because they come down to us from the first quarter of the 
nineteenth century, these comments of Sir William Jones, Dug- 
ald Stewart, Sir James Macintosh, and Thomas Brown on 
Hindu Philosophy should be of special interest today. 

I regret that there was not enough space available to include 
selections from all Scottish philosophers who have contributed 
to the extant literature of this school of philosophy. Especially 
important are writings of the two editors of Sir William Ham- 
ilton's Lectures, H. L. Mansel and John Veitch. The former 
wrote The Limits of Religious Thought (1858) and The Philos- 
ophy of the Conditioned (1866); and the latter wrote Hamilton 
(1882), Knowing and Being (1889), and Dualism and Monism 
(1895). Less important are the two representatives of the 
Scottish School referred to by Immanuel Kant, James Beattie 
and James Oswald. Beattie wrote a popular and vulgar book 
entitled Essay on the Nature and Immutability of Truth in 
Opposition to Sophistry and Skepticism (1770), which was trans- 
lated into German. In one of his letters, Hume writes: ". . . that 
bigotted and silly fellow, Beattie." James Oswald wrote An 
Appeal to Common Sense in Behalf of Religion (Vol. I, 1766, 
and Vol. II, 1772). Neither Beattie nor Oswald added anything 


substantial to the common-sense theory of Reid. There were 
several other Scottish philosophers of minor importance. Henry 
Laurie's informative The Scottish Philosophy in Its National De- 
velopment (Glasgow: James Macelhouse & Sons, 1902) contains 
chapters on Andrew Baxter, Lord Karnes, George Campbell, 
Lord Monbodo, Adam Ferguson, and Thomas Chambers. Con- 
sult the Index for references to some of these writers quoted 
in the selections in this compendium. 

Another omission needs explanation. Nearly a decade after 
the death of Sir William Hamilton, John Stuart Mill spent three 
years working on a refutation of his philosophy because he con- 
sidered it dangerous. In 1865 he published in two volumes the 
result of these labors, Examination of the Philosophy of Sir 
William Hamilton. The following year he was answered by 
James McCosh in An Examination of John Stuart Mill's Philos- 
ophy, Being a Defense of Fundamental Truths. More than 
twenty years later McCosh wrote: "Hamilton, in his famous 
Note A, appended to his edition of Reid's Collected Works, has 
shown that all thinkers, including even sceptics, have been 
obliged to assume something without proof, and to justify them- 
selves in doing so. In my Examination of Mr. J. S. Mill's Philos- 
ophy, I have shown that, in his Examination of Hamilton's 
Philosophy he has assumed between twenty and thirty such 
principles." (Realistic Philosophy [London: Macmillan & Co., 
1887], Vol. II, p. 164.) The consensus among competent schol- 
ars is that Mill considerably modified his empirical philosophy 
by concessions he made in his attempted refutation of Sir Wil- 
liam Hamilton's philosophy. In this compendium there are no 
selections dealing with this controversy, but readers are advised 
to examine the treatises of Mill and McCosh in following up 
their studies of Scottish Philosophy. 

By the end of the nineteenth century the Scottish Philosophy 
had been supplanted in England and America by the Kantian- 
based idealistic philosophies of such thinkers as T. H. Green, 
F. H. Bradley, Bernard Bosanquet, Pringle Pattison, N. K. Smith, 
J. 11. Muirhead, and others in England, and by B. P. Bowne, 
W. T. Harris, G. H. Howison, J. E. Creighton, John Watson, 


Josiah Royce, and others in the United States and Canada. 
Coleridge and Carlyle pioneered this development in English 
literature, and Emerson's transcendentalism represented it in 
American literature. 

It is interesting to note that in his article entitled "Idealism," 
published in the fourteenth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britan- 
nica, J. H. Muirhead names J. F. Ferrier as a precursor of 
Anglo-American absolute idealism. And his definition of idealism 
in this article shows that he himself was considerably influenced 
by Ferrier's epistemology. This means that the dialectical wheel 
came full circle in the philosophy of Ferrier. Reid's common- 
sense realism arose as a replacement of the incomplete idealism 
of Berkeley and the radical skepticism of Hume. But if he had 
used his own criteria to judge common-sense realism, Ferrier 
would have pronounced it improperly reasoned and essentially 
untrue. However, he would not have returned to the subjective 
idealism of Berkeley and Hume, for he was more of a precursor 
of Anglo-American objective idealism than he was a slavish 
follower of the so-called "fundamental beliefs" of his predeces- 
sors among the Scottish philosophers. 

Ferrier's appreciative evaluation of Berkeley in his essay 
"Berkeley and Idealism" supports this interpretation of his role 
in the development of the Scottish philosophy. He writes: 3 

But the history of philosophy repairs any injustice which may 
be done to philosophy itself; and the doctrines of Berkeley, in- 
complete as they appear when viewed as the isolated tenets of 
an individual, and short as they no doubt fell, in his hands, of 
their proper and ultimate expression, acquire a fuller and a pro- 
founder significance when studied in connection with the specu- 
lations which have since followed in their train. The great 
problems of humanity have no room to work themselves out 
within the limits of an individual mind. Time alone weaves a 
canvas wide enough to do justice to their true proportions; and 
a few broad strokes is all that the genius of any one man, how- 
ever gifted, is permitted to add to the mighty and illimitable 

3 Professor Ferrier's Works, Vol. Ill, Philosophical Remains ( New 
Edition, Edinburgh, 1883), pp. 292 f. 


work. It is therefore no reproach to Berkeley to say that he left 
his labours incomplete; that he was frequently misunderstood, 
that his reasonings fell short of their aim, and that he perhaps 
failed to carry with him the unreserved and permanent con- 
victions of any one of his contemporaries. The subsequent 
progress of philosophy shows how much the science of man is 
indebted to his researches. He certainly was the first to stamp 
the indelible impress of his powerful understanding on those 
principles of our nature, which, since his time, have brightened 
into imperishable truths in the light of genuine speculation. His 
genius was the first to swell the current of that mighty stream 
of tendency towards which all modern meditation flows, the 
great gulf-stream of Absolute Idealism. 

Today the dialectical wheel has been given a new whirl, and 
those who are in the operator's seat are even more confident 
than were their predecessors that they have found the true 
method of philosophizing, if not the true philosophy. Logical 
positivists and philosophical analysts are clamoring for and 
claiming the ascendance in the domain of philosophy, and neo- 
orthodox and Utopian theologians in that of Protestant theology. 
The confident leaders of these contemporary philosophical and 
theological movements will find much to support their con- 
tentions in the writings of the Scottish philosophers. It is the 
Editor's hope that this compendium may contribute to the awak- 
ening of their interest, as well as that of their adherents and 
many others, in this vast storehouse of philosophical, psycho- 
logical, and theological doctrines and theories. 

D. S. R. 


Francis Hutcheson 

The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

The Scottish School of Metaphysics began, in the judgment of 
Sir William Hamilton, 1 with Gerschom Carmichael, Professor 
of Moral Philosophy in Glasgow, immediately before Hutcheson. 
He published about 1720 an edition of Puffendorf, De Officio 
Hominis et Civis, with comments. The first well-known writer 
of this school is Francis Hutcheson, 1694-1747, born in the north 
of Ireland and educated at the University of Glasgow, a licen- 
tiate of divinity, and many years a popular teacher in Dublin. 
In 1729 he was elected Professor of Moral Philosophy in the 
University of Glasgow. His works are: An Inquiry into the 
Original of Our Ideas of Beauty, Lond., 1725. An Essay on the 
Passions and Affections, Lond., 1728. Metaphysicae Synopsis, 
etc., 1742. System of Moral Philosophy with Life, etc., Glasgow, 
1755. Letters on Virtue, 1772. 

Hutcheson is best known by his assertion of the doctrine 
that moral distinctions are apprehended directly by means or 
as the consequence of a special capacity of the soul, designated 
as the moral sense. "Moral goodness denotes an idea of some 
quality apprehended in actions which procures approbation and 
love toward the actor from those who receive no advantage by 
the action." "Moral evil, our idea of a contrary quality, which 
excites aversion and dislike towards the actor, even from persons 
unconcerned in its natural tendency." 

1 Hamilton's Life of T. Reid, p. 30. 


As the bodily senses give us their appropriate "sensitive per- 
ceptions," and furnish the mind with the simple ideas proper 
to each, so there is a capacity for that idea called Beauty, and 
another for the idea called Harmony. These are properly called 
internal senses, and also reflex and secondary senses, because 
they presuppose objects furnished by the external senses. These 
superior powers of perception are also called senses, because 
the pleasure does not arise from any knowledge of principles, 
proportions, causes, or the usefulness of the object, but is di- 
rectly imparted. In addition to the Sense of Society, we have a 
moral sense to direct our actions and to give us nobler pleasures. 
This moral sense does not suppose any innate ideas, knowledge, 
or practical propositions, but is only a "determination of our 
minds to receive amiable or disagreeable ideas of actions, ante- 
cedent to any opinion of advantage or loss to redound to our- 
selves from them." The universal quality or characteristic of 
the actions which are agreeable to the moral sense is benevolent 
intention; i.e., all the actions which are approved by the moral 
sense as virtuous are disinterestedly benevolent actions. 

The metaphysical doctrines which connect Hutcheson with 
the so-called Scottish School and which justify his being con- 
sidered the precursor of Reid, are the circumstance that he 
anticipated Reid in his dissent from Locke, and used the term 
suggestion in the same import in which Reid employs it in his 
Inquiry. Vide Met. Syn. P.I,c.l, quae omnia perspecta suggerunt, 
rationis aut habitudinis quae inter res intercedit, notionem. His 
dissent from Locke's account of the origin of our ideas is as 
decided as is that of Reid. Essay on the Origin, etc., II, c. 12. 
"Every sensation is accompanied with the idea of duration, and 
yet duration is not a sensible idea, since it also accompanies 
ideas of internal consciousness or reflection." "Extension, figure, 
motion or rest seems therefore to be more properly called ideas 
accompanying the sensations of sight and touch, than the sen- 
sations of either of these senses." Vide also Essay on the Pas- 
sions, Sec. I., note. Mor. Phil., B.I.c.i.s3. "These latter for 
distinction we may call concomitant ideas of sensation" etc. 
"But none therefore imagines that it is reason, and not sense, 


which discovers these concomitant ideas, or primary qualities." 
Mm. of Moral Sense, Sec. 4. The merit and relative originality 
of Hutcheson are acknowledged by Dr. Price. Review, ch. p. 
56, ed. 1. Phil. Essays I. ch. III. Cf. also Sir W. Hamilton, Works 
of Reid, p. 124, n. Royer Collard, Oeuvres de Reid, Tom. iii. p. 

Hutcheson also shows his independence of Locke in his doc- 
trine of axioms. Met. P. I. c.iii. of Consciousness; Met. P. II, c.i., 
as well as in his doctrine of the secondary or reflex senses of 
Beauty and Moral qualities. He contends that in a proper sense 
of the term, though not in that rejected by Locke, certain ideas 
are innate, and holds that we accept them not on grounds of 
experience, but by an independent power which is menti con- 
genita intelligendi vis. 

Concerning the Finer Vomers of Perception 

By Francis Hutcheson 

This selection gives a clear account of the author's doctrine of the 
finer powers of perception of human beings, including the moral 
sense. It is taken from A System of Moral Philosophy by Francis 
Hutcheson, LL.D., published from the original manuscript by his 
son, Francis Hutcheson, M.D. (Glasgow, MDCCLV), Vol. I, Chap- 
ter II, pp. 15-29. The spelling of a number of words has been mod- 
ernized. Some footnotes have been omitted, and therefore the foot- 
notes in this essay are not consecutively numbered. 

I. After the general account of the perceptive powers, and of 
the will, we proceed to consider some finer powers of percep- 
tion, and some other natural determinations of will, and general 
laws of the human constitution. 

To the senses of seeing and hearing, are superadded in most 
men, though in very different degrees, certain powers of per- 
ception of a finer kind than what we have reason to imagine 


are in most of the lower animals, who yet perceive the several 
colours and figures, and hear the several sounds. These we may 
call the senses of beauty and harmony, or, with Mr. Addison, 
the imagination. Whatever name we give them, 'tis manifest that, 
the several following qualities in objects, are sources of pleasure 
constituted by nature; or, men have natural powers or determina- 
tions to perceive pleasure from them. 

1. Certain forms are more grateful to the eye than others, 
even abstracting from all pleasure of any lively colours, such 
complex ones, especially, where, uniformity, or equality of pro- 
portion among the parts, is observable; nor can we, by command 
of our will, cause all forms indifferently to appear pleasant, 
more than we can make all objects grateful to the taste. 

2. As a disposition to imitate is natural to mankind from 
their infancy, so they universally receive pleasure from imita- 
tion. Where the original is beautiful, we may have a double 
pleasure; but an exact imitation, whether of beauty or deformity, 
whether by colours, figures, speech, voice, motion or action, 
gives of itself a natural pleasure. 

3. Certain compositions of notes are immediately pleasant 
to the generality of men, which the artists can easily inform us 
of. The simpler pleasures arise from the concords; but an higher 
pleasure arises from such compositions as, in sound and time, 
imitate those modulations of the human voice, which indicate 
the several affections of the soul in important affairs. Hence 
Plato and Lycurgus observed a moral character in music, and 
looked upon it as of some consequence in influencing the man- 
ners of a people. 

4. As we are endued with reason to discern the fitness of 
means for an end, and the several relations and connections of 
things; so, there is an immediate pleasure in knowledge, distinct 
from the Judgment itself, though naturally joined with it. We 
have a pleasure also in beholding the effects of art and design, 
in any ingenious machinery adapted to valuable purposes, in 
any utensil well fitted for its end; whether we hope to have 
the use of it or not. We have delight in exercising our own 
rational, inventive, and active powers; we are pleased to behold 


the like exercises of others, and the artful effects of them. In 
such works of art we are pleased to see intermixed the beauty 
of form, and imitation, as far as it consists with the design; 
but the superior pleasure from the execution of the design makes 
us omit the inferior when it is inconsistent. 

II. Granting all these dispositions to be natural, we may ac- 
count for all that diversity of fancies and tastes which we 
observe, since so many qualities are naturally pleasing, some 
of which may be chiefly regarded by one, and others by others. 
The necessitous, the busy, or the slothful, may neglect that 
beauty in dress, architecture, and furniture, which they might 
obtain, and yet not be insensible to it. One may pursue only the 
simpler kind in the uniformity of parts; others may also inter- 
sperse imitation of the beautiful works of nature; and, of these, 
some may choose one set of natural objects, and others may 
choose other objects of greater beauty or dignity: the manner 
too of imitation may be more or less perfect. Again, some in their 
works may chiefly regard the pleasure from appearance of de- 
sign, and usefulness, admitting only the pleasures of beauty and 
imitation as far as they consist with it. In the most fantastic 
dresses there is uniformity of parts, and some aptitude to the 
human shape, and frequently imitation. But our modern dresses 
are less fitted for easy motion, and the displaying of the human 
shape, than the ancient. Spectators who regard these ends may 
prefer the ancient dresses; those who do not think of them, or 
regard them, may prefer the modern. 

In like manner as to architecture; they who discern the imi- 
tation of the proportions of the human body in certain parts, may 
relish one manner on that account. Others, who know the uses 
of which certain parts present the appearance, may relish this 
design; others, without these views, may be pleased with the 
uniformity of the parts: others may like or dislike through 
some 5 associations of ideas; of which hereafter. 

One who would reduce all sense of beauty in forms to some 

See the Inquiry into Beauty, b.i.c.7, par. 4. 


real or apparent usefulness discerned, will never be able to ex- 
plain how the spectator relishes those useful forms from which 
he gets no benefit, nor expects any beyond the pleasure of be- 
holding them; nor how we are pleased with the forms of flowers, 
of birds, and wild beasts, when we know not any real or ap- 
parent uses indicated by them; nor how any spectator, quite 
a stranger to the views of the architect, shall be pleased with the 
first appearance of the work; nor whence it is that we are all 
pleased with imitations of objects, which, were they really 
placed where their images are, would be of no advantage; one 
may as well assert that, before we can be pleased with a favour, 
we must know the figures of the minute particles, and see their 
inoffensive nature to our nerves. 

The pleasures of these 6 finer senses are of no small impor- 
tance in life. How much soever they seem neglected by the 
votaries of wealth and power, they are generally much in their 
view for themselves, in some future period of life, or for their 
posterity: as for others who have a more elegant taste, they are 
the end of a great part of their labours: and the greatest part 
of men, when they are tolerably provided against the uneasy 
cravings of appetite, show a relish for these pleasures: no 
sooner are nations settled in peace than they begin to cultivate 
the arts subservient to them, as all histories will inform us. 

To these pleasures of the imagination may be added two 
other grateful perceptions arising from novelty and grandeur. 
The former ever causes a grateful commotion when we are at 
leisure; which perhaps arises from that curiosity or desire of 
knowledge which is deeply rooted in the soul; of which here- 
after. Grandeur also is generally a very grateful circumstance 
in any object of contemplation distinct from its beauty or pro- 
portion. Nay, where none of these are observed, the mind is 
agreeably moved with what is large, spacious, high, or deep, 
even when no advantage arising from these circumstances is 

6 One who would make all these to be perceptions of the external 
senses, and deny that we have any distinct powers of perception, may as 
well assert that the pleasures of geometry, or perspective, are sensual, 
because 'tis by the senses we receive the ideas of figure. 


regarded. The final causes of these natural determinations or 
senses of pleasure may be seen in some 7 late authors. 

III. Another important determination or sense of the soul we 
may call the sympathetic, different from all the external senses; 
by which, when we apprehend the state of others, our hearts 
naturally have a fellow-feeling with them. When we see or know 
the pain, distress, or misery of any kind which another suffers, 
and turn our thoughts to it, we feel a strong sense of pity, and 
a great proneness to relieve, where no contrary passion withholds 
us. And this 8 without any artful views of advantage to accrue 
to us from giving relief, or of loss we shall sustain by these 
sufferings. We see this principle strongly working in children, 
where there are the fewest distant views of interest; so strongly 
sometimes, even in some not of the softest mould, at cruel 
executions, as to occasion fainting and sickness. This principle 
continues generally during all our lives. 

We have a like natural disposition to Congratulation with 
others in their joys; where no prior emulation, imagined op- 
position of interest, or prejudice, prevents it. We have this 
sympathy even with the brute animals; and hence poets so 
successfully please us with descriptions of their joys. But as 
our own selfish passions which repel evil, such as fear, anger, 
resentment, are generally stronger commotions of soul than the 
passions pursuing private good; so pity is a stronger benevolent 
passion than congratulation. And all this is wisely contrived, 
since immunity from pain seems previously necessary to the 
enjoyment of good. Thus the stronger motions of the mind are 
directed toward that which is most necessary. This sympathy 
seems to extend to all our affections and passions. They all 
seem naturally contagious. We not only sorrow with the dis- 
tressed, and rejoice with the prosperous; but admiration, or sur- 
prise, discovered in one, raises a correspondent commotion of 
mind in all who behold him. Fear observed raises fear in the 
observer before he knows the cause, laughter moves to laugh, 
love begets love, and the devout affections displayed dispose 

7 See Spectator N. 412, and the Inquiry into Beauty, last section. 

8 See Inquiry into Virtue, sect. 2. 


others to devotion. One easily sees how directly subservient this 
sympathy is to that grand determination of the soul toward 
universal happiness. 

IV. Before we mention some other finer senses, which have 
actions of men for their objects, we must observe one general 
determination of the soul to exercise all its active powers. We 
may see in our species, from the very cradle, a constant propen- 
sity to action and motion; children grasping, handling, viewing, 
tasting everything. As they advance they exert other powers, 
making all trials possible; observing all changes, and inquiring 
into their causes; and this from an impulse to action and an 
implanted instinct toward knowledge, even where they are not 
allured by any prospects of advantage. Nay we see almost all 
other animals, as soon as they come to light, exercising their 
several powers by like instincts, in the way that the Author of 
Nature intended; and by this exercise, though often laborious 
and fatiguing, made happier than any state of slothful sensu- 
ality could make them. Serpents try their reptile motions; beasts 
raise themselves and walk or run; birds attempt to raise them- 
selves with their wings and soar on high; waterfowl take to the 
water as soon as they see it. The colt is practising for the race, 9 
the bull is butting with his horns, and the hound exercising him- 
self for the chase. 

Children are ever in motion while they are awake, nor do 
they decline weariness and toil; they show an aversion to sleep 
till it over-powers them against their wills; they observe what- 
ever occurs, they remember and inquire about it; they learn the 
names of things, inquire into their natures, structures, uses, and 
causes; nor will their curiosity yield to rebukes and affronts. 
Kind affections soon break out toward those who are kind to 
them; strong gratitude, and an ardor to excel in any thing that 
is praised; in vying with their fellows they are transported with 
success and victory, and exceedingly dejected when they are 
outdone by others. They are soon provoked to anger upon any 

9 Dente lupus, &c. Hor. lib. i. fat. i. 1. 52. 


imagined injury or hurt; are afraid of experienced pain, and 
provoked at the cause of it; but soon appeased by finding it 
undesigned, or by professions of repentance. Nothing do they 
more resent than false accusation or reproach. They are prone 
to sincerity 7 , and truth, and openness of mind, until they have 
experienced some evils following upon it. They are impatient 
to relate to others any thing new or strange, or apt to move 
admiration or laughter; ready to gratify any one with what they 
have no use for themselves; fond of pleasing, and void of sus- 
picion, till they have had experience of injuries. 

This impulse to action continues during life, while we retain 
the use of our powers. The men who are most worthless and 
slothful yet are not wholly idle; they have their games, their 
cabals and conversation to employ them, or some mean ingen- 
uity about sensual pleasures. We see in general that mankind 
can be happy only by action of one kind or other; and the 
exercise of the intellectual powers is one source of natural de- 
light from the cradle to the grave. Children are transported 
with discoveries of any thing new or artificial, and impatient to 
show them to others. Public shows, rarities, magnificence, give 
them high entertainment; but above all, the important actions 
of great characters; the fortunes of such men, and of the states 
where they lived, whether related, read, or represented by ac- 
tion, are the delight of all ages. Here the pleasure is heightened 
by our social feelings of joy, and the keenness of inquiry in- 
creased by our impulse to compassion, and our concern about 
the persons we admire. 

When men have the proper genius, and access to more 
laborious knowledge, what ardour of mind do some show for 
geometry, numbers, astronomy, and natural history? All toils and 
watchings are born with joy. Need we mention even fabulous 
history, mythology, philology? 'Tis manifest there is an high 
natural pleasure in knowledge without any allurements of other 
advantage. There is a like pleasure in practical knowledge about 
the business of life, and the effects of actions upon the happi- 
ness of individuals, or that of societies. How contrary are all 
these appearances of Nature to that Philosophy which makes 


the sole impulse or determination of the soul to be a desire of 
such pleasures as arise from the body and are referred to it, 
or of immunity from bodily pain! 

V. Action is constituted to mankind the grand source of their 
happiness by an higher power of perception than any yet men- 
tioned; namely, that by which they receive the moral notions of 
actions and characters. Never was there any of the human 
species, except idiots, to whom all actions appeared indifferent. 
Moral differences of action are discerned by all, even when they 
consider no advantage or disadvantage to redound to themselves 
from them. As this moral sense is of high importance, it shall be 
more fully considered in a subsequent chapter. It may suffice 
at present to observe what we all feel, that a certain temper, 
a set of affections, and actions consequent on them, when we are 
conscious of them in ourselves, raise the most joyful sensations 
of approbation and inward satisfaction; and when the like are 
observed in others, we have a warm feeling of approbation, a 
sense of their excellence, and, in consequence of it, great good- 
will and zeal for their happiness. If we are conscious of contrary 
affections and actions, we feel an inward remorse, and dislike 
to ourselves; when we observe the like in others, we dislike and 
condemn their dispositions, reputing them base and odious. 

The affections which excite this moral approbation are all 
cither directly benevolent, or naturally connected with such 
dispositions; those which are disapproved and condemned, are 
either ill-natured, by which one is inclined to occasion misery 
to others; or such selfish dispositions as argue some unkind af- 
fection, or the want of that degree of the benevolent affections 
which is requisite for the public good, and commonly expected 
in our species. 

This moral discernment is not peculiar to persons of a fine 
education and much reflection. The rudest of mankind show such 
notions; and young minds, who think least of the distant influ- 
ences of actions upon themselves or others, and have small 
precaution about their own future interests, are rather more 
moved with mow! forms than others. Hence that strong inclina- 


tion in children, as soon as they understand the names of the 
several affections and tempers, to hear such stories as present 
the moral characters of agents and their fortunes. Hence that 
joy in the prosperity of the kind, the faithful, and the just; and 
that indignation and sorrow upon the successes of the cruel and 
treacherous. Of this power we shall treat more fully hereafter. 

VI. As by the former determination we are led to approve 
or condemn ourselves or others according to the temper dis- 
played, so by another natural determination, which we may 
call a sense of honour and shame, an high pleasure is felt upon 
our gaining the approbation and esteem of others for our good 
actions, and upon their expressing their sentiments of gratitude; 
and on the other hand, we are cut to the heart by censure, con- 
demnation, and reproach. All this appears in the countenance. 
The fear of infamy, or censure, or contempt, displays itself by 

Tis true, we may observe from our infancy, that men are 
prone to do good offices to those they approve and honour. But 
we appeal to the hearts of men, whether they have not an 
immediate pleasure in being honoured and esteemed, without 
thinking of any future advantages, and even when they pre- 
viously know that they can receive none. Are not we generally 
solicitous about our characters after our death? And whence 
is it that blushing accompanies this sort of fear, and not the 
fears of other disadvantages, if this is not an immediate prin- 

Aristotle's 10 account of this pleasure, though more elegant, is 
not just "that we relish honour as it is a testimony to our virtue, 
which we are previously conscious is the greatest good." This 
consideration may sometimes make honour very grateful to men 
who are doubtful and diffident of their own conduct. But have 
not also the men of greatest abilities, who are perfectly assured 
of the goodness of their conduct, a like natural joy in being 
praised, distinct from their inward self-approbation? 

10 Nichomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chap. 5. 


The kind intention of God in implanting this principle is 
obvious. 'Tis a strong incitement to every thing excellent and 
amiable: it gives a grateful reward to virtue: it often surmounts 
the obstacles to it from low worldly interests: and even men of 
little virtue are excited by it to such useful services as they 
would have otlierways declined. The selfish are thus, beyond 
their inclinations, made subservient to a public interest; and 
such are punished who counteract it. 

What may further prove that this sense of honour is an orig- 
inal principle, is this; we value the praise of others, not in 
proportion to their abilities to serve us, but in proportion to 
their capacity of judging in such matters. We feel the difference, 
between the interested desire of pleasing the man in power who 
can promote us: and the inward joy from the approbation of 
the judicious or ingenious, who cannot do us any other good 
offices. The desire of praise is acknowledged to be one of the 
most universal passions of the soul. 

VII. Though it is by the moral sense that actions become of 
the greatest consequence to our happiness or misery; yet 'tis 
plain the mind naturally perceives some other sorts of excellence 
in many powers of body and mind; must admire them, whether 
in ourselves or others; and must be pleased with certain exer- 
cises of them, without conceiving them as moral virtues. We 
often use words too promiscuously, and do not express distinctly 
the different feelings or sensations of the soul. Let us keep moral 
approbation for our sentiments of such dispositions, affections, 
and consequent actions, as we repute virtuous. W 7 e find this 
warm approbation a very different perception from the admira- 
tion or liking which we have for several other powers and dis- 
positions; which are also relished by a sense of decency or 
dignify. This sense also is natural to us, but the perceptions 
very different from moral approbation. We not only know the 
use of such valuable powers, and of their exercise, to the person 
possessed of them; but have agreeable commotions of admira- 
tion and liking, and these in several degrees. Thus beauty, 
strength, swiftness, agility of body, are more decent and esteem- 



able than a strong voracious stomach, or a delicate palate. The 
manly diversions of riding, or hunting, are beheld with more 
pleasure and admiration than eating and drinking even in a 
moderate degree. A taste for these manly exercises is often 
valued; whereas pursuits of mere sensuality appear despicable 
even when they do not run into excess, and at best are only 
innocent. Nay there is something graceful, in the very shape 
gesture and motion, and something indecent and uncomely; ab- 
stracting from any indications of advantage discerned by the 

But this is still more obvious about the powers of the mind 
and their exercise. A penetrating genius, capacity for business, 
patience of application and labour, a tenacious memory, a quick 
wit, are naturally admirable, and relished by all observers; but 
with a quite different feeling from moral approbation. To every 
natural power there seems to be a corresponding sense or taste, 
recommending one sort of exercise, and disliking the contrary. 
Thus we relish the exercise of all the ingenious arts, machinery 
of every kind, imitation in painting, sculpture, statuary, poetry, 
gardening, architecture, music. We not only behold the works 
with pleasure, but have a natural admiration of the persons in 
whom we discern a taste and genius for these arts. Whereas 
the exercise of our lower powers, merely subservient to sensual 
gratification, are at best beheld with indifference, are often 
matter of shame, and the cause of contempt. 

Thus according to the just observation of Aristotle, "The chief 
happiness of active beings must arise from action; and that not 
from action of every sort, but from that sort to which their 
nature is adapted, and which is recommended by nature." When 
we gratify the bodily appetites, there is an immediate sense of 
pleasure, such as the brutes enjoy, but no further satisfaction; 
no sense of dignity upon reflection, no good-liking of others for 
their being thus employed. There is an exercise of some other 
bodily powers which seem more manly and graceful. There is 
a manifest gradation; some fine tastes in the ingenious arts are 
still more agreeable; the exercise is delightful; the works are 
pleasant to the spectator, and reputable to the artist. The exer- 


cise of the higher powers of the understanding, in discovery of 
truth, and just reasoning, is more esteemable, when the subjects 
are important. But the noblest of all are the virtuous affections 
and actions, the objects of the moral sense. 

Concerning the Moral Sense, or Faculty of 

Perceiving Moral Excellence, and Its 

Supreme Objects 

By Francis Hutcheson 

This selection gives a fuller account of the ways in which the moral 
sense functions. It is from Volume I, Chapter IV, pp. 62-78, of A 
System of Moral Philosophy. 

VII. Let us next consider the several powers or dispositions 
approved or disapproved by this faculty. And here 'tis plain 
that the primary objects of this faculty are the affections of the 
will, and that the several affections which are approved, though 
in very different degrees, yet all agree in one general character, 
of tendency to the happiness of others, and to the moral per- 
fection of the mind possessing them. No actions, however in 
fact beneficial to society, are approved as virtuous if they are 
imagined to flow from no inward good-will to any person, or 
from such dispositions as do not naturally suppose good-will 
in the agent, or at least exclude the highest selfishness. The de- 
sires of glory, or even of rewards in a future state, were they 
supposed the sole affections moving an agent in the most bene- 
ficial services, without any love to God, esteem of his moral excel- 
lencies, gratitude to him, or good-will to men, would not obtain 
our approbation as morally good dispositions: and yet a firm 
belief of future happiness to be obtained by Divine appoint- 
ment, upon our doing beneficient actions, might be as steady 
and effectual a cause of or motive to such actions as any other. 


But mere desire of one's own happiness, without any love to God, 
or man, is never the object of approbation. This itself may 
show us how distinct moral approbation is from a persuasion of 
the tendency of actions to the interest of the approver, since 
he might hope equally great advantages from such a steady 
interested disposition to actions in fact beneficent, as from any 
kind affection. 

That some sort of benevolent affections, or some dispositions 
imagined to be connected with them, are the natural objects of 
approbation; and the opposite affections, or the want of the 
kind ones, the objects of condemnation, will be plain from al- 
most all our reasonings in praising or censuring, applauding or 
condemning the characters and actions of mankind. We point 
out some kind or beneficent intention, or some beneficent pur- 
poses proposed by the agent in what we praise, or would vin- 
dicate from censure. We show some detriment ensuing to others, 
either intended or known, or what easily might have been 
known by one who had any tender regard for the interests of 
others, as the evidence either of ill-nature in the agent, or such 
selfishness, or such selfish passions as over-power all kindness 
and humanity. 

VIII. There is a plain gradation in the objects of our appro- 
bation and condemnation, from the indifferent set of actions 
ascending to the highest virtue, or descending to the lowest 
vice. It is not easy to settle exactly the several intermediate 
steps in due order, but the highest and lowest are manifest. 
The indifferent affections and actions are such as pursue the 
innocent advantages of the agent without any detriment to 
society, and yet without any reference made by the agent to 
any good of others. Such are the necessary and moderate grati- 
fications of appetite, and many trifling actions. To explain the 
different degrees, we must observe what was hinted at formerly, 
that beside the moral approbation of virtue, there is also another 
relish or sense of a certain dignity or decency in many disposi- 
tions and actions not conceived as virtuous. Thus we value the 
pursuits of the ingenious arts, and of knowledge, nay even some 


bodily perfections, such as strength and agility, more than mere 
brutal sensuality. We in like manner value more in another 
activity, patience of labour, sagacity, and spirit in business, pro- 
vided they are not injurious, though we conceive them solely 
exercised for his own promotion to wealth and honour, than a 
lazy inactive indolence. 

The calm desire of private good, though it is not approved 
as virtue, yet it is far from being condemned as vice. And none 
of the truly natural and selfish appetites and passions are of 
themselves condemned as evil, when they are within certain 
bounds, even though they are not referred by the agent to any 
public interest. It was necessary for the general good that all 
such affections should be implanted in our species; and there- 
fore it would have been utterly unnatural to have made them 
matter of disapprobation even while they were not hurtful. Nay, 
as these selfish affections are aiming at an end necessary to the 
general good, to wit the good of each individual, and as the 
abilities of gratifying them are powers which may be very use- 
fully employed in subserviency to the most generous affections, 
it was highly proper and benign in the Author of Nature to 
invite us to the culture of these powers by an immediate relish 
for them wherever we observe them, in ourselves or in others; 
though this relish is plainly different from moral approbation. 

We all have by consciousness and experience a notion of the 
human constitution, and of a certain proportion of affections 
requisite to an innocent character. The selfish affections are then 
only disapproved when we imagine them beyond that innocent 
proportion, so as to exclude or over-power the amiable affec- 
tions, and engross the mind wholly to the purposes of selfish- 
ness, or even to obstruct the proper degree of the generous 
affections in the station and circumstances of the agent. 

IX. But there is another set of dispositions and abilities still 
of a finer nature, though distinct from both the calm universal 
benevolence and the particular kind affections; which however 
are naturally connected with such affections, natural evidences 
of them, and plainly inconsistent with the highest sorts of selfish- 



ness and sensuality; and these seem immediate objects of the 
moral sense, though perhaps not the highest. They seem to be 
approved immediately, even before we think of this connexion 
with disinterested affections, or imagine directly that the agent 
is referring them to beneficent purposes. Of these moral dis- 
positions there are several sorts, all immediately approved, un- 
less the mind directly discerns that they are employed in vicious 
purposes. Thus is fortitude approved, as it imports that some- 
thing moral is more valued than life, and as plainly inconsistent 
with the highest selfishness: if indeed it be seen employed in 
rapine, and merely selfish purposes, such as those of lust or 
avarice, it becomes the object of horror. Candour and open- 
ness of mind, and sincerity, can scarce ever be unattended with 
a kind honest heart; as 'tis virtue and innocence alone which 
need no disguise. And these dispositions too are immediately 
approved, perhaps before we think of this connexion; so is 
also a steadfast principle of veracity whenever we speak. 

I know not if Cicero's account of this be exact; "that we 
naturally desire knowledge, and are averse to ignorance, and 
error, and being deceived; and thence relish these dispositions 
which are the natural means of knowledge, and the preservatives 
against deceptions." Veracity seems to be immediately and 
strongly approved, and that from our infancy; as we see the 
first natural impulse of the young mind is to speak truth, till 
by experiencing some inconveniences it is taught to counteract 
the natural impulse. One needs not mention here courtesy and 
good manners: they are the very dress of virtue, the direct pro- 
fession of kind affections, and are thus approved. As all these 
abilities and dispositions are of great importance in life, highly 
beneficial to mankind when exerted in consequence of kind 
affections, and are naturally connected with them, or exclude 
the opposite extreme, 'tis with the highest goodness and wisdom 
that they are immediately recommended to our approbation by 
the constitution of our moral faculty. 

But of all such dispositions of our nature, different from 
all our kind affections, none is so nearly connected with them, 
none so natural an evidence of them, none so immediately and 


necessarily subservient to them, as an acute moral sense itself, 
a strong desire of moral excellence, with an high relish of it 
wherever it is observed. We do not call the power or sense 
itself virtuous; but the having this sense in an high degree nat- 
urally raises a strong desire of having all generous affections; 
it surmounts all the little obstacles to them, and determines the 
mind to use all the natural means of raising them. Now, as the 
mind can make any of its own powers the object of its reflex 
contemplation, this high sense of moral excellence is approved 
above all other abilities. And the consequent desire of moral 
excellence, the consequent strong love, esteem, and good-will to 
the persons where it is found, are immediately approved, as 
most amiable affections, and the highest virtues. 

X. Having premised these considerations, we may observe 
the following degrees of approbation, as they arise above what is 
merely indifferent. 

1. One may rank in the first step, as the object of some sort 
of esteem or good liking, the exercise even of those more manly 
powers, which have no necessary or natural connexion with 
virtue, but show a taste above sensuality and the lower selfish- 
ness: such as the pursuits of the ingenious arts, of the elegance 
of life, and speculative sciences. Every one sees a dignity in 
these pleasures, and must relish the desires of them; and indeed 
they are far less opposite to virtue, or the public interest, than 
keen tastes or appetites of a lower kind. 

2. 'Tis plain however, that our moral sense puts a much 
higher value upon abilities and dispositions immediately con- 
nected with virtuous affections, and which exclude the worst 
sorts of selfishness. Thus candour, veracity, fortitude, and a 
strong sense of honour, have a moral estimation above other 

3. But to come to the more immediate objects of moral appro- 
bation, the kind affections themselves; 'tis certain that, among 
affections of equal extent, we more approve the calm stable 
resolute purposes of heart, than the turbulent and passionate. 
And that of affections in this respect alike, we more approve 



those which are more extensive, and less approve those which 
are more confined. Thus, the stable conjugal and parental love, 
or the resolute calm purpose of promoting the true happiness 
of persons thus related to us, is preferable to the turbulent pas- 
sionate dispositions of tenderness. And the love of a society, a 
country, is more excellent than domestic affections. We see 
plainly the superior dignity in these cases from this, that, not- 
withstanding the struggle felt in our breasts, and the opposition 
made by the passionate or more limited affections, yet, when we 
resolutely follow the calm and extensive notwithstanding of this 
opposition, the soul in its calmest hours and most deliberate 
reflections approves of its own conduct; and scarce ever fails 
to approve the like conduct in others at once; as in the case 
of others its passions are not raised to give opposition. On the 
contrary, when we have yielded to the passions or the limited 
affection, in opposition to the calm or more extensive principle, 
the soul upon reflection is dissatisfied with itself, and at first 
view it condemns the like conduct in others. 

That disposition therefore which is most excellent, and nat- 
urally gains the highest moral approbation, is the calm, stable, 
universal good-will to all, or the most extensive benevolence. 
And this seems the most distinct notion we can form of the 
moral excellency of the Deity. 

Another disposition inseparable from this in men, and prob- 
ably in all beings who are capable of such extensive affection, 
is the relish or approbation of this affection, and a naturally 
consequent desire of this moral excellence, and an esteem and 
good-will of an higher kind to all in whom it is found. This 
love of moral excellence is also an high object of approbation, 
when we find it in ourselves by reflection, or observe it in 
another. It is a pretty different affection from benevolence or 
the desire of communicating happiness; and is as it were in 
another order of affections; so that one cannot well determine 
whether it can be compared with the other. It seems co-ordinate, 
and the highest possible of that kind; never in opposition to 
benevolence, nay always conspiring with and assisting it. This 
desire of moral excellence, and love to the mind where it resides, 


with the consequent acts of esteem, veneration, trust, and resig- 
nation, are the essence of true piety toward God. 

We never speak of benevolence toward God; as that word 
carries with it some supposal of indigence, or want of some 
good, in the object. And yet, as we have benevolence toward 
a friend when he may need our assistance; so, the same emo- 
tion of soul, or the same disposition toward him, shall remain 
when he is raised to the best state we can wish; and it then 
exerts itself in congratulation, or rejoicing in his happiness. In 
this manner may our souls be affected toward the Deity, with- 
out any supposition of his indigence, by the highest joy and 
complacence in his absolute happiness. 

XI. Tis easy to observe the like gradation from the indif- 
ferent state of the soul through the several degrees of moral 
turpitude. The first may be the want of these more reputable 
abilities; which indeed implies no evil affection, and yet plainly 
makes a character despicable, though not immoral. Thus we 
dislike the imprudent conduct of any man with respect to his 
own interest, without thinking of any detriment to arise to 
society from it. Thus negligence, rashness, sloth, indolence, are 
naturally disliked, abstracting from their effects upon society. 
So is a mind insensible to the more manly pleasures of arts and 
genius. When indeed imprudent conduct, in point of private 
interest, is considered also as affecting a public, or some other 
persons than the agent, whose interests he ought to have re- 
garded, as it generally does; then it may be matter of high 
moral condemnation and remorse; so may the meanness of our 
talents or abilities, when occasioned by our immoderate sloth 
and sensuality, and a defect of generous affections. 

1. The objects of the gentlest moral disapprobation or cen- 
sure are those cases "where one in gratifying some lovely nar- 
rower affection has inadvertently omitted what would have most 
tended to the public good." Such is the promoting a good friend 
or benefactor in opposition to a competitor of superior merit 
and abilities. The preferring, in such cases, a less worthy friend 



to one's self, may be censured indeed as a want of due pro- 
portion among these lovely affections, when a more extensive 
one yields to the more limited; but the moral beauty of some 
limited affections is so great that we readily overlook some de- 
fects in the more extensive. The same is the case if one has 
served a friend at a trouble or expense to himself much above 
the value of the good he has done his friend; perhaps too in- 
capacitating himself for some wiser services hereafter. Where 
indeed one preferred to himself a friend of equal merit, the 
public interest is as well promoted this way, and a beautiful 
affection of friendship is displayed. And yet the contrary con- 
duct, when there are no special circumstances pleading for a 
friend, could not be censured as immoral. 

2. Other objects of lighter censure are those actions detri- 
mental to the public which a person is forced to do to avoid 
death torture or slavery; when yet the public detriment is still 
greater than those evils he avoids. Here the agent may have 
no ill-will; nay may have many generous affections though not 
of that heroic strength which the moral sense would recommend. 
The guilt is exceedingly extenuated by the greatness of the 
temptation, which few have sufficient strength of soul to resist. 
In order to retain the character of innocence, we expect, not 
only the absence of all malicious dispositions, but many good 
affections, and those too of an extensive nature; with much cau- 
tion about the interests of others. The precise degree cannot well 
be determined; nor is it necessary. But the stronger and the more 
extensive the generous affections are, so much the better is the 
temper; the lower they are and the more that any opposite or 
narrower ones prevail against them, so much the temper is the 
worse. 'Tis our business to aim at the highest moral excellence, 
and not content ourselves with merely avoiding infamy and 

3. Another degree of vice are the sudden passionate motions 
of anger, resentment, and ill-will, upon provocation either falsely 
apprehended, or aggravated beyond any real ground. Such pas- 
sions when they lead to injury are vicious, though not in the 


highest degree. When indeed by indulgence they turn into habit- 
ual rancour and settled malice or revenge, they form a most 
odious character. 

4. A more deformed sort of vice is when the selfish passions 
and sensual appetites lead men into like injuries. These are 
worse excuses and weaker extenuations of guilt than the angry 

5. A degree more deformed is when calm selfishness raises 
deliberate purposes of injury known to be such. In these cases 
the moral faculty must be quite over-powered, and deprived of 
all its natural force in the soul, and so must all humanity. The 
like is the case when men from mere selfishness, without any 
grievous temptation, or without any motives of public interest, 
counteract their moral sentiments by falsehood, treachery, in- 
gratitude, a neglect of honour, or low cowardice dreading to lose 
some positive advantages, even while there is no such evil im- 
pending as could much affect a brave and good man. 

6. In this class, or rather in a worse one, we must rank 
impiety, or the want of all due affections to the Deity, when 
he is known and conceived to be good. Our moral faculty must 
be strangely asleep where the desire of knowing the Supreme 
Excellence is a-wanting, or love to it when it is known: or where 
there is no care to cultivate devout affections of gratitude where 
there have been the greatest benefits received, and where they 
are repeated every moment. 

There is a disposition still worse, conceivable in the abstract, 
but scarce incident to mankind, or the creatures of a good Deity; 
a fixed unprovoked original malice, or a desire of the misery of 
others for itself, without any motives of interest. 

XII. Without a distinct consideration of this moral faculty, 
a species endued with such a variety of senses, and of desires 
frequently interfering, must appear a complex confused fabric, 
without any order or regular consistent design. By means of it, 
all is capable of harmony, and all its powers may conspire in 
one direction, and be consistent with each other. 'Tis already 
proved that we are capable of many generous affections ulti- 



mately terminating on the good of others, neither arising from 
any selfish view, nor terminating on private good. This moral 
faculty plainly shows that we are also capable of a calm settled 
universal benevolence, and that this is destined, as the supreme 
determination of the generous kind, to govern. and control our 
particular generous as well as selfish affections; as the heart 
must entirely approve its doing thus in its calmest reflections: 
even as in the order of selfish affections, our self-love, or our 
calm regard to the greatest private interest controls our particu- 
lar selfish passions; and the heart is satisfied in its doing so. 

To acknowledge the several generous ultimate affections of 
a limited kind to be natural, and yet maintain that we have no 
general controlling principle but self-love, which indulges or 
checks the generous affections as they conduce to, or oppose, 
our own noblest interest; sometimes allowing these kind affec- 
tions their full exercise, because of that high enjoyment we 
expect to ourselves in gratifying them; at other times checking 
them, when their gratification does not over-balance the loss we 
may sustain by it; is a scheme which brings indeed all the 
powers of the mind into one direction by means of the reference 
made of them all to the calm desire of our own happiness, in 
our previous deliberations about our conduct: and it may be 
justly alleged that the Author of Nature has made a connexion 
in the event at last between our gratifying our generous affec- 
tions, and our own highest interest. But the feelings of our heart, 
reason, and history, revolt against this account: which seems 
however to have been maintained by excellent authors and 
strenuous defenders of the cause of virtue. 

This connexion of our own highest interests with the gratify- 
ing our generous affections, in many cases is imperceptible to 
the mind; and the kind heart acts from its generous impulse, not 
thinking of its own interest. Nay all its own interests have some- 
times appeared to it as opposite to, and inconsistent with, the 
generous part in which it persisted. Now were there no other 
calm original determination of soul but that toward one's own 
interest, that man must be approved entirely who steadily pur- 
sues his own happiness, in opposition to all kind affections and 


all public interest. That which is the sole calm determination, 
must justify every action in consequence of it, however opposite 
to particular kind affections. If it be said "that 'tis a mistake to 
imagine our interest opposite to them while there is a good 
providence": grant it to be a mistake; this is only a defect of 
reasoning: but that disposition of mind must upon this scheme 
be approved which coolly sacrifices the interest of the universe 
to its own interest. This is plainly contrary to the feelings of our 

Can that be deemed the sole ultimate determination, the 
sole ultimate end which the mind in the exercise of its noblest 
powers can calmly resolve, with inward approbation, deliber- 
ately to counteract? are there not instances of men who have 
voluntarily sacrificed their lives, without thinking of any other 
state of existence, for the sake of their friends or their country? 
does not every heart approve this temper and conduct, and ad- 
mire it the more, the less presumption there is of the love of 
glory and posthumous fame, or of any sublimer private interest 
mixing itself with the generous affection? does not the admira- 
tion rise higher, the more deliberately such resolutions are 
formed and executed? All this is unquestionably true, and yet 
would be absurd and impossible if self-interest of any kind is 
the sole ultimate determination of all calm desire. There is there- 
fore another ultimate determination which our souls are capable 
of, destined to be also an original spring of the calmest and most 
deliberate purposes of action; a desire of communicating happi- 
ness, an ultimate good-will, not referred to any private interest, 
and often operating without such reference. 

In those cases where some inconsistency appears between 
these two determinations, the moral faculty at once points out 
and recommends the glorious, the amiable part; not by suggest- 
ing prospects of future interests of a sublime sort by pleasures 
of self-approbation, or of praise. It recommends the generous 
part by an immediate undefinable perception; it approves the 
kind ardour of the heart in the sacrificing even life itself, and 
that even in those who have no hopes of surviving, or no atten- 
tion to a future life in another world. And thus, where the moral 


sense is in its full vigour, it makes the generous determination 
to public happiness the supreme one in the soul, with that com- 
manding power which it is naturally destined to exercise. 

It must be obvious we are not speaking here of the ordinary 
condition of mankind, as if these calm determinations were gen- 
erally exercised, and habitually controlled the particular pas- 
sions; but of the condition our nature can be raised to by due 
culture; and of the principles which may and ought to operate, 
when by attention we present to our minds the objects or rep- 
resentations fit to excite them. Doubtless some good men have 
exercised in life only the particular kind affections, and found a 
constant approbation of them, without either the most extensive 
views of the whole system, or the most universal benevolence. 
Scarce any of the vicious have ever considered wherein it is that 
their highest private happiness eonsists, and in consequence of 
it exerted the calm rational self-love; but merely follow incon- 
siderately the selfish appetites and affections. Much less have 
all good men made actual references of all private or generous 
affections to the extensive benevolence, though the mind can 
make them; or bad men made references of all their affections 
to calm self-love. 


David Hume 

The Man and His Work 


This biographical sketch is taken from the Library of the World's 
Best Literature, edited by Charles Dudley Warner (New York: R. S. 
Peale & J. K. Hill, 1897), Vol. XIII, pp. 7777-81. Some paragraphs 
of the author's comments have been omitted. 

David Hume not only founded the literary school of English 
history, and originated some of the more important doctrines 
of modern political economy, but also exercised a paramount 
influence on the philosophic thought of the eighteenth century. 

He was the younger son of Joseph Hume, laird of Ninewells 
in Berwickshire; and was born at Edinburgh April 26th (O.S.), 
1711. He appears to have entered the University of Edinburgh 
at the age of twelve, and to have left at fourteen or fifteen 
without taking a degree. He began the study of law, but aban- 
doned it in order to devote himself to the "pursuits of philosophy 
and learning." His first work, the Treatise of Human Nature, 
was published partly in 1739 and partly in 1740; the books en- 
titled "Of the Understanding" and "Of the Passions" appearing 
in the former, and that entitled "Of Morals" in the latter year. 

The Treatise of Human Nature is the final and most complete 
exposition of the fundamental principles of the old school of 
empirical philosophy— the school to which belonged Bacon, 
Locke, and Berkeley. According to Hume, the contents of the 
mind are embraced in the term "perceptions." Perceptions con- 



sist of sensuous impressions and ideas. Ideas are merely images 
of sensuous impressions. Knowledge is the cognition of the re- 
lation between two perceptions. There is no necessary connec- 
tion between cause and effect. The idea of cause depends on 
the habit of the mind which expects the event that usually fol- 
lows another. Mind is but a series or succession of isolated 
impressions and ideas. As knowledge is dependent on experi- 
ence derived through the senses, and as the senses frequently 
deceive, one can have no absolute knowledge of things, but 
only of one's impressions of them. . . . 

In 1763 Hume accepted the post of secretary to Lord Hert- 
ford, then ambassador to France. In France Hume's reputation 
stood even higher than in Britain, and he immediately became 
a social lion in the Parisian world of fashion. Great nobles 
feted him, and gatherings at noted salons were incomplete with- 
out his presence. He left France in 1766, and after a short term 
as Under-Secretary of State (1767-1769) returned to Edinburgh, 
where he died August 25th, 1776. 

Among his works of importance not hitherto mentioned are 
Philosophical Essays concerning Human Understanding, 1748; 
An Enquiry concerning the Principles of Morals, 1751; and Dia- 
logues concerning Natural Religion, 1779. 

Hume's personal character was thus described by himself 
in his Autobiography, written four months before his death: 
"I am ... a man of mild disposition, of command of temper, of 
an open, social, and cheerful humor, capable of attachment but 
little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my 
passions." The accuracy of this description is confirmed by the 
testimony of his contemporaries and the tone of his private 
correspondence. It was not until he had reached middle age that 
he was able to gratify his taste for intellectual society by remov- 
from the country to the town, "the true scene for a man of 
letters.". . . 

Hume befriended Rousseau, when the latter sought refuge 
in England from persecution. On this occasion, however, his kind 
offices plunged him into a disagreeable literary quarrel with the 
morbid and perhaps mentally irresponsible beneficiary. 


Absence of jealousy was a notable trait in Hume's character. 
He gave assistance and encouragement to several of the younger 
generation of Scottish writers; and his magnanimity is further 
illustrated by the helpful letter to his chief adversary, Thomas 
Reid, which he wrote on returning the manuscript of the Inquiry 
into the Human Mind, submitted by the younger philosopher for 
the elder's criticism. 

In 1741 appeared the first volume of the Essays Moral and 
Political, the second volume coming out in the following year. 
These essays, with some additions and omissions, were repub- 
lished in 1748 under the expanded title Essays Moral, Political, 
and Litcrartj, which has been retained in the many subsequent 
editions. Hume's essays are models of their kind, full of sparkle, 
interest, and animation. As an essayist he has not been sur- 
passed in purity of diction, and no English writer except Addi- 
son equals him in the sense of harmony. His essays are character- 
ized by intellectual impartiality, and by a philosophical breadth 
of view coupled with critical acuteness in matters of detail. His 
Political Discourses, which were written in the same vein as the 
Essays, appeared in 1752. . . . 

Till the age of forty, Hume's life was spent chiefly in the 
seclusion of Ninewells, the family estate; interrupted by a so- 
journ of three years in France from 1734 to 1737, by a few 
months' absence as companion to the Marquis of Annandale in 
1745 and 1746, and by a short period of service as secretary to 
General St. Clair, whom he accompanied on the expedition 
against Port L'Orient in 1746 and on a military embassy to 
Vienna and Turin. In 1751 he removed to Edinburgh, where in 
the following year he was appointed keeper of the library of the 
Faculty of Advocates, a post which he occupied until 1757. The 
library of the Faculty was the largest in Scotland, and afforded 
him an opportunity, long desired, of turning his attention to 
historical studies. In 1754 he published a volume on the reigns 
of James I and Charles I; followed in 1756 by a volume on the 
period from the execution of Charles to the Revolution of 1688, 
in 1759 by two volumes on the house of Tudor, and in 1761 by 
two more on the period from Julius Caesar to Henry VII. Thus 


in the short space of ten years he wrote and published his 
famous History of Great Britain, covering the entire period from 
the Roman conquest to the Revolution of 1688. . . . 

Of the Origin of the Natural Virtues 
and Vices 

By David Hume 

This selection is taken from A Treatise of Human Nature, Book III, 
Part III, Section I, as printed in The Philosophical Works of David 
Hume (in four volumes; Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), Vol. 
II, pp. 355-60. A footnote is here omitted. 

To discover the true origin of morals, and of that love or hatred 
which arises from mental qualities, we must take the matter 
pretty deep, and compare some principles which have been 
already examined and explained. 

We may begin with considering anew the nature and force 
of sympathy. The minds of all men are similar in their feelings 
and operations; nor can anyone be actuated by any affection of 
which all others are not in some degree susceptible. As in strings 
equally wound up, the motion of one communicates itself to 
the rest, so all the affections readily pass from one person to 
another, and beget correspondent movements in every human 
creature. When I see the effects of passion in the voice and 
gesture of any person, my mind immediately passes from these 
effects to their causes, and forms such a lively idea of the 
passion as is presently converted into the passion itself. In like 
manner, when I perceive the causes of any emotion, my mind is 
conveyed to the effects, and is actuated with a like emotion. 
Were I present at any of the more terrible operations of surgery, 
it is certain that, even before it begun, the preparation of the 
instruments, the laying of the bandages in order, the heating 


of the irons, with all the signs of anxiety and concern in the 
patient and assistants, would have great effect upon my mind, 
and excite the strongest sentiments of pity and terror. No pas- 
sion of another discovers itself immediately to the mind. We are 
only sensible of its causes or effects. From these we infer the 
passion; and consequently these give rise to our sympathy. 

Our sense of beauty depends very much on this principle; 
and where any object has a tendency to produce pleasure in its 
possessor, it is always regarded as beautiful; as every object 
that has a tendency to produce pain is disagreeable and de- 
formed. Thus, the conveniency of a house, the fertility of a field, 
the strength of a horse, the capacity, security, and swift-sailing 
of a vessel, form the principal beauty of these several objects. 
Here the object, which is denominated beautiful, pleases only 
by its tendency to produce a certain effect. That effect is the 
pleasure or advantage of some other person. Now, the pleasure 
of a stranger for whom we have no friendship, pleases us only 
by sympathy. To this principle, therefore, is owing the beauty 
which we find in everything that is useful. How considerable 
part this is of beauty will easily appear upon reflection. Wher- 
ever an object has a tendency to produce pleasure in the pos- 
sessor, or, in other words, is the proper cause of pleasure, it is 
sure to please the spectator by a delicate sympathy with the 
possessor. Most of the works of art are esteemed beautiful, in 
proportion to their fitness for the use of man; and even many 
of the productions of nature derive their beauty from that 
source. Handsome and beautiful, on most occasions, is not an 
absolute, but a relative quality, and pleases us by nothing but its 
tendency to produce an end that is agreeable. 

The same principle produces, in many instances, our senti- 
ments of morals, as well as those of beauty. No virtue is more 
esteemed than justice, and no vice more detested than injustice; 
nor are there any qualities which go further to the fixing the 
character, either as amiable or odious. Now justice is a moral 
virtue, merely because it has that tendency to the good of 
mankind, and indeed is nothing but an artificial invention to 
that purpose. The same may be said of allegiance, of the laws 
of nations, of modesty, and of good manners. All of these are 


mere human contrivances for the interest of society. And since 
there is a very strong sentiment of morals, which in all nations 
and all ages has attended them, we must allow that the reflect- 
ing on the tendencies of characters and mental qualities is 
sufficient to give us the sentiments of approbation and blame. 
Now, as the means to an end can only be agreeable where the 
end is agreeable, and as the good of society, where our own 
interest is not concerned, or that of our friends, pleases only by 
sympathy, it follows, that sympathy is the source of the esteem 
which we pay to all the artificial virtues. 

Thus it appears, that sympathy is a very powerful principle 
in human nature, that it has a great influence on our taste of 
beauty, and that it produces our sentiment of morals in all the 
artificial virtues. From thence we may presume, that it also 
gives rise to many of the other virtues, and that qualities acquire 
our approbation because of their tendency to the good of man- 
kind. This presumption must become a certainty, when we find 
that most of those qualities which we naturally approve of, have 
actually that tendency, and render a man a proper member of 
society; while the qualities which we naturally disapprove of 
have a contrary tendency, and render any intercourse with the 
person dangerous or disagreeable. For having found, that such 
tendencies have force enough to produce the strongest senti- 
ment of morals, we can never reasonably, in these cases, look 
for any other cause of approbation or blame; it being an inviol- 
able maxim in philosophy, that where any particular cause is 
sufficient for an effect, we ought to rest satisfied with it, and 
ought not to multiply causes without necessity. We have happily 
attained experiments in the artificial virtues, where the tendency 
of qualities to the good of society is the sole cause of our appro- 
bation, without any suspicion of the concurrence of another prin- 
ciple. From thence we learn the force of that principle. And 
where that principle may take place, and the quality approved of 
is really beneficial to society, a true philosopher will never re- 
quire any other principle to account for the strongest approba- 
tion and esteem. 

That many of the natural virtues have this tendency to the 
good of society, no one can doubt of. Meekness, beneficence, 


charity, generosity, clemency, moderation, equity, bear the great- 
est figure among the moral qualities, and are commonly denom- 
inated the social virtues, to mark their tendency to the good of 
society. This goes so far, that some philosophers have repre- 
sented all moral distinctions as the effect of artifice and educa- 
tion, when skilful politicians endeavored to restrain the turbulent 
passions of men, and make them operate to the public good, by 
the notions of honor and shame. This system, however, is not 
consistent with experience. For, first, There are other virtues 
and vices beside those which have this tendency to the public 
advantage and loss. Secondly, Had not men a natural senti- 
ment of approbation and blame, it could never be excited by 
politicians; nor would the words laudable and praiseworthy, 
blamable, and odious, be any more intelligible than if they were 
a language perfectly unknown to us, as we have already ob- 
served. But though this system be erroneous, it may teach us 
that moral distinctions arise in a great measure from the tend- 
ency of qualities and characters to the interests of society, and 
that it is our concern for that interest which makes us approve 
or disapprove of them. Now, we have no such extensive concern 
for society, but from sympathy; and consequently it is that 
principle which takes us so far out of ourselves as to give us 
the same pleasure or uneasiness in the characters of others, as 
if they had a tendencv to our own advantage or loss. 

J J o 

The only difference betwixt the natural virtues and justice 
lies in this, that the good which results from the former arises 
from every single act, and is the object of some natural passion; 
whereas a single act of justice, considered in itself, may often 
be contrary to the public good; and it is only the concurrence 
of mankind in a general scheme or system of action, which is 
advantageous. When I relieve persons in distress, my natural 
humanity is my motive; and so far as my succor extends, so 
far have I promoted the happiness of my fellow-creatures. But 
if we examine all the questions that come before any tribunal 
of justice, we shall find that, considering each case apart, it 
would as often be an instance of humanity to decide contrary 
to the laws of justice as conformable to them. Judges take from 



a poor man to give to a rich; they bestow on the dissolute the 
labor of the industrious; and put into the hands of the vicious 
the means of harming both themselves and others. The whole 
scheme, however, of law and justice is advantageous to the 
society; and it was with a view to this advantage that men, by 
their voluntary conventions, established it. After it is once estab- 
lished by these conventions, it is naturally attended with a strong 
sentiment of morals, which can proceed from nothing but our 
sympathv with the interests of society. We need no one expli- 
cation of that esteem which attends such of the natural virtues 
as have a tendency to the public good. 1 

The Origin of Our Ideas 

By David Hume 

This selection is taken from A Treatise of Human Nature, Vol. I, 
Book I, Section I, loco citato, Vol. I, pp. 15-18. 

All the perceptions of the human mind resolve themselves 
into two distinct kinds, which I shall call impressions and ideas. 
The difference betwixt these consists in the degrees of force and 
liveliness, with which they strike upon the mind, and make their 

1 In the postscript to his letter to Francis Hutcheson, dated Sept. 17, 
1739, Hume wrote: '"I cannot forbear recommending another thing to 
your consideration. Actions are not virtuous nor vicious; but only so far 
as there are proofs of certain qualities or durable principles in the mind. 
This is a point I should have established more expressly than I have done. 
Now I desire you to consider, if there be any quality, that is virtuous, 
without having a tendency either to the public good or to the good of 
the person who possesses it. If there be none without these tendencies, 
we may conclude, that their merit is derived from sympathy. I desire you 
would only consider the tendencies of qualities, not their actual opera- 
tion, which depends on chance." From Letters of David Hume, edited 
by J. Y. T. Grieg. Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1932, Vol. I, Letter 
13, p. 34. (Editor's note.) 


way into our thought or consciousness. Those perceptions which 
enter with most force and violence, we may name impressions; 
and, under this name, I comprehend all our sensations, passions, 
and emotions, as they make their first appearance in the soul. 
By ideas I mean the faint images of these in thinking and reason- 
ing; such as, for instance, all the perceptions excited by the 
present discourse, excepting only those which arise from the 
sight and touch, and excepting the immediate pleasure or un- 
easiness it may occasion. I believe it will not be very necessary 
to employ many words in explaining this distinction. Everyone 
of himself will readily perceive the difference betwixt feeling 
and thinking. The common degrees of these are easily distin- 
guished; though it is not impossible but, in particular instances, 
they may very nearly approach to each other. Thus, in sleep, 
in a fever, in madness, or in any very violent emotions of soul, 
our ideas may approach to our impressions: as, on the other 
hand, it sometimes happens, that our impressions are so faint 
and low, that we cannot distinguish them from our ideas. But, 
notwithstanding this near resemblance in a few instances, they 
are in general so very different that no one can make a scruple 
to rank them under distinct heads, and assign to each a peculiar 
name to mark the difference. 1 

There is another division of our perceptions, which it will 
be convenient to observe, and which extends itself both to our 
impressions and ideas. This division is into simple and complex. 
Simple perceptions, or impressions and ideas, are such as admit 
of no distinction nor separation. The complex are the contrary 
to these, and may be distinguished into parts. Though a partic- 
ular color, taste, and smell, are qualities all united together in 

1 I here make use of these terms, impression and idea, in a sense 
different from what is usual, and I hope this liberty will be allowed me. 
Perhaps I rather restore the word idea to its original sense, from which 
Mr. Locke had perverted it, in making it stand for all our perceptions. 
By the term of impression, I would not be understood to express the 
manner in which our lively perceptions are produced in the soul, but 
merely the perceptions themselves; for which there is no particular name, 
either in English or any other language that I know of. 


this apple, it is easy to perceive they are not the same, but 
are at least distinguishable from each other. 

Having, by these divisions, given an order and arrangement 
to our objects, we may now apply ourselves to consider, with 
the more accuracy, their qualities and relations. The first cir- 
cumstance that strikes my eye, is the great resemblance betwixt 
our impressions and ideas in every other particular, except their 
degree of force and vivacity. The one seems to be, in a manner, 
the reflection of the other; so that all the perceptions of the 
mind are double, and appear both as impressions and ideas. 
When I shut my eyes, and think of my chamber, the ideas I 
form are exact representations of the impressions I felt; nor is 
there any circumstance of the one which is not to be found in 
the other. In running over my other perceptions, I find still the 
same resemblance and representation. Ideas and impressions ap- 
pear always to correspond to each other. This circumstance 
seems to me remarkable, and engages my attention for a mo- 

Upon a more accurate survey I find I have been carried 
away too far by the first appearance, and that I must make use 
of the distinction of perceptions into simple and complex, to 
limit this general decision, that all our ideas and impressions are 
resembling. I observe that many of our complex ideas never had 
impressions that corresponded to them, and that many of our 
complex impressions never are exactly copied in ideas. I can 
imagine to myself such a city as the New Jerusalem, whose pave- 
ment is gold, and walls are rubies, though I never saw any 
such. I have seen Paris; but shall I affirm I can form such an 
idea of that city, as will perfectly represent all its streets and 
houses in their real and just proportions? 

I perceive, therefore, that though there is, in general, a great 
resemblance betwixt our complex impressions and ideas, yet the 
rule is not universally true, that they are exact copies of each 
other. We may next consider, how the case stands with our sim- 
ple perceptions. After the most accurate examination of which 
I am capable, I venture to affirm, that the rule here holds with- 
out any exception, and that every simple idea has a simple 


impression, which resembles it, and every simple impression a 
correspondent idea. The idea of red, which we form in the 
dark, and that impression which strikes our eyes in sunshine, 
differ only in degree, not in nature. That the case is the same 
with all our simple impressions and ideas it is impossible to 
prove by a particular enumeration of them. Every one may sat- 
isfy himself in this point by running over as many as he pleases. 
But if any one should denv this universal resemblance, I know 
no way of convincing him, but by desiring him to show a simple 
impression that has not a correspondent idea, or a simple idea 
that has not a correspondent impression. If he does not answer 
this challenge, as it is certain he cannot, we may, from his 
silence and our observation, establish our conclusion. 

Thus we find that all simple ideas and impressions resemble 
each other: and, as the complex are formed from them, that 
these two species of perception are exactly correspondent. . . . 
Therefore, we shall here content ourselves with establishing one 
general proposition: That all our simple ideas in their fast ap- 
pearance, are derived from simple impressions, ichich are cor- 
respondent to them, and ichich they exactly represent. 

The Ideas of Cause and Effect and 
Necessary Connection 

By David Hume 

This selection is taken from A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, 
Part III, Section II, loco citato, Vol. I, pp. 101-05, 199-200, 212-13. 

We must consider the idea of causation, and see from what 
origin it is derived. It is impossible to reason justly, without 
understanding perfectlv the idea concerning which we reason; 
and it is impossible perfectlv to understand any idea, without 
tracing it up to its origin, and examining that primary impres- 


sion, from which it arises. The examination of the impression 
bestows a clearness on the idea; and the examination of the idea 
bestows a like clearness on all our reasoning. 

Let us therefore cast our eye on any two objects, which we 
will call cause and effect, and turn them on all sides, in order 
to find that impression, which produces an idea of such prodig- 
ious consequence. At first sight I perceive, that I must not 
search for it in any of the particular (/utilities of the objects; 
since, whichever of these qualities I pitch on, I find some object 
that is not possessed of it, and yet falls under the denomination 
of cause or effect. And indeed there is nothing existent, either 
externally or internally, which is not to be considered either 
as a cause or an effect; though it is plain there is no one quality 
which universally belongs to all beings, and gives them a title 
to that denomination. 

The idea then of causation must be derived from some rela- 
tion among objects; and that relation we must now endeavor 
to discover. I find in the first place, that whatever objects are 
considered as causes or effects, are contiguous; and that noth- 
ing can operate in a time or place, which is ever so little 
removed from those of its existence. Though distant objects may 
sometimes seem productive of each other, they are commonly 
found upon examination to be linked by a chain of causes, which 
are contiguous among themselves, and to the distant objects; 
and when in any particular instance we cannot discover this 
connection we still presume it to exist. We may therefore con- 
sider the relation of contiguity as essential to that of causa- 
tion. . . . 

The second relation I shall observe as essential to causes 
and effects, is not so universally acknowledged, but is liable to 
some controversy. It is that of priority of time in the cause before 
the effect. Some pretend that it is not absolutely necessary a 
cause should precede its effect; but that any object or action, in 
the very first moment of its existence, may exert its productive 
quality, and give rise to another object or action, perfectly con- 
temporary with itself. But beside that experience in most in- 
stances seems to contradict this opinion, we may establish the 


relation of priority by a kind of inference or reasoning. It is an 
established maxim, both in natural and moral philosophy, that 
an object, which exists for any time in its full perfection without 
producing another, is not its sole cause; but is assisted by some 
other principle which pushes it from its state of inactivity, and 
makes it exert that energy, of which it was secretly possessed. 
Now if any cause may be perfectly contemporary with its 
effect, it is certain, according to this maxim, that they must all 
of them be so; since any one of them, which retards its opera- 
tion for a single moment, exerts not itself at that very individual 
time, in which it might have operated; and therefore is no 
proper cause. The consequence of this would be no less than the 
destruction of that succession of cause, which we observe in 
the world; and indeed the utter annihilation of time. For if one 
cause were contemporary with its effect, and so on, it is plain 
there would be no such thing as succession, and all objects must 
be coexistent. 

If this argument appear satisfactory, it is well. If not, I beg 
the reader to allow me the same liberty, which I have used in 
the preceding case, of supposing it such. For he shall find, that 
the affair is of no great importance. 

Having thus discovered or supposed the two relations of 
contiguity and succession to be essential to causes and effects, 
I find I am stopped short, and can proceed no further in con- 
sidering any single instance of cause and effect. Motion in one 
body is regarded upon impulse as the cause of motion in another. 
When we consider these objects with the utmost attention, we 
find only that the one body approaches the other; and that the 
motion of it precedes that of the other, but without any sen- 
sible interval. It is in vain to rack ourselves with further thought 
and reflection upon this subject. We can go no further in con- 
sidering this particular instance. 

Should anyone leave this instance, and pretend to define a 
cause, by saying it is something productive of another, it is 
evident he would say nothing. For what does he mean by pro- 
duction? Can he give any definition of it, that will not be the 
same with that of causation? If he can, I desire it may be pro- 


duced. If he cannot, he here runs in a circle, and gives a synony- 
mous term instead of a definition. 

Shall we then rest content with these two relations of con- 
tiguity and succession, as affording a complete idea of causa- 
tion? By no means. An object may be contiguous and prior to 
another, without being considered as its cause. There is a nec- 
essary connection to be taken into consideration; and that rela- 
tion is of much greater importance, than any of the other two 
above mentioned. . . . 

What is our idea of necessity, when we say that two objects 
are liecessarily connected together? Upon this head I repeat, 
what I have often had occasion to observe, that as we have no 
idea that is not derived from an impression, we must find some 
impression that gives rise to this idea of necessity, if wc assert 
we have really such an idea. In order to do this, I consider in 
what objects necessity is commonly supposed to lie: and, find- 
ing that it is always ascribed to causes and effects, I turn my 
eye to two objects supposed to be placed in that relation, and 
examine them in all the situations of which they are susceptible. 
I immediately perceive that they are contiguous in time and 
place, and that the object we call cause precedes the other we 
call effect. In no one instance can I go any further, nor is it 
possible for me to discover any third relation betwixt these ob- 
jects. I therefore enlarge my view to comprehend several in- 
stances, where I find like objects always existing in like relations 
of contiguity and succession. At first sight this seems to serve but 
little to my purpose. The reflection on several instances only 
repeats the same objects; and therefore can never give rise to 
a new idea. But upon further inquiry I find, that the repetition 
is not in every particular the same, but produces a new impres- 
sion, and by that means the idea which I at present examine. 
For after a frequent repetition I find, that upon the appearance 
of one of the objects, the mind is determined by custom to 
consider its usual attendant, and to consider it in a stronger light 
upon account of its relation to the first object. It is this impres- 
sion, then, or determination, which affords me the idea of 
necessity. . , . 


The necessary connection betwixt causes and effects is the 
foundation of our inference from one to the other. The founda- 
tion of our inference is the transition arising from the accus- 
tomed union. They are, therefore, the same. 

The idea of necessity arises from some impression. There 
is no impression conveyed by our senses, which can give rise 
to that idea. It must, therefore, be derived from some internal 
impression, or impression of reflection. There is no internal im- 
pression which has any relation to the present business, but 
that propensity, which custom produces, to pass from an object 
to the idea of its usual attendant. This, therefore, is the essence 
of necessity. Upon the whole, necessity is something that exists 
in the mind, not in objects; nor is it possible for us ever to form 
the most distant idea of it, considered as a quality in bodies. 
Either we have no idea of necessity, or necessity is nothing but 
that determination of the thought to pass from causes to effects, 
and from effects to causes, according to their experienced union. 

Thus, as the necessity, which makes two times two equal to 
four, or three angles of a triangle equal to two right ones, lies 
only in the act of the understanding, by which we consider and 
compare these ideas; in like manner, the necessity of power, 
which unites causes and effects, lies in the determination of the 
mind to pass from the one to the other. The efficacy or energy 
of causes is neither placed in the causes themselves, nor in the 
Deity, nor in the concurrence of these two principles; but be- 
longs entirely to the soul, which considers the union of two or 
more objects in all past instances. It is here that the real power 
of cause is placed, along with their connection and necessity. 



By David Hume 

This selection is from A Treatise of Human Nature, Book I, Sections 
I & VI, loco citato, Vol. I, pp. 229-34, 238-40, 310-15, 331-32. 

In all demonstrative sciences the rules are certain and infal- 
lible; but when we apply them, our fallible and uncertain fac- 
ulties are very apt to depart from them, and fall into error. We 
must, therefore, in every reasoning form a new judgment, as a 
check or control on our first judgment or belief; and must en- 
large our view to comprehend a kind of history of all the in- 
stances, wherein our understanding has deceived us, compared 
with those wherein its testimony was just and true. Our reason 
must be considered as a kind of cause, of which truth is the 
natural effect; but such a one as, by the irruption of other 
causes, and by the inconstancy of our mental powers, may fre- 
quently be prevented. By this means all knowledge degenerates 
into probability; and this probability is greater or less, accord- 
ing to our experience of the veracity or deceitfulness of our 
understanding, and according to the simplicity or intricacy of 
the question. 

There is no algebraist nor mathematician so expert in his 
science, as to place entire confidence in any truth immediately 
upon his discovery of it, or regard it as any thing but a mere 
probability. Every time he runs over his proofs, his confidence 
increases; but still more by the approbation of his friends; and 
is raised to its utmost perfection by the universal assent and 
applauses of the learned world. Now, it is evident that this 
gradual increase of assurance is nothing but the addition of new 
probabilities, and is derived from the constant union of causes 
and effects, according to past experience and observation. 

In accounts of any length or importance, merchants seldom 
trust to the infallible certainty of numbers for their security, 


but by the artificial structure of the accounts, produce a prob- 
ability beyond what is derived from the skill and experience of 
the accountant. For that is plainly of itself some degree of 
probability; though uncertain and variable, according to the 
degrees of his experience and length of account. Now as none 
will maintain, that our assurance in a long numeration exceeds 
probability, I may safely affirm, that there scarce is any proposi- 
tion concerning numbers, of which we can have a fuller security. 
For it is easily possible, by gradually diminishing the numbers, 
to reduce the longest series of addition to the most simple ques- 
tion which can be formed, to an addition of two single numbers; 
and upon this supposition we shall find it impracticable to show 
the precise limits of knowledge and of probability, or discover 
that particular number at which the one ends and the other 
begins. But knowledge and probability are of such contrary and 
disagreeing natures, that they cannot well run insensibly into 
each other, and that because they will not divide, but must be 
either entirely present or entirely absent. Besides, if any single 
addition were certain, every one would be so, and consequently 
the whole or total sum; unless the whole can be different from all 
its parts. I had almost said, that this was certain; but I reflect 
that it must reduce itself, as well as every other reasoning, and 
from knowledge degenerate into probability. 

Since, therefore, all knowledge resolves itself into probability, 
and becomes at last of the same nature with that evidence which 
we employ in common life, we must now examine this latter 
species of reasoning, and see on what foundation it stands. 

In every judgment which we can form concerning probabil- 
ity, as well concerning knowledge, we ought always to correct 
the first judgment, derived from the nature of the object, by 
another judgment, derived from the nature of the understanding. 
It is certain a man of solid sense and long experience ought to 
have, and usually has, a greater assurance in his opinions, than 
one that is foolish and ignorant, and that our sentiments have 
different degrees of authority, even with ourselves, in propor- 
tion to the degrees of our reason and experience. In the man 
of the best sense and longest experience, this authority is never 


entire, since even such a one must be conscious of many errors 
in the past, and must still dread the like for the future. Here 
then arises a new species of probability to correct and regulate 
the first, and fix its just standard and proportion. As demonstra- 
tion is subject to the control of probability, so is probability 
liable to a new correction by a reflex act of the mind, wherein 
the nature of our understanding, and our reasoning from the 
first probability, become our objects. 

Having thus found in every probability, beside the original 
uncertainty inherent in the subject, a new uncertainty, derived 
from the weakness of that faculty which judges, and having 
adjusted these two together, we are obliged by our reason to 
add a new doubt, derived from the possibility of error in the 
estimation we make of the truth and fidelity of our faculties. 
This is a doubt which immediately occurs to us, and of which, 
if we would closely pursue our reason, we cannot avoid giving 
a decision. But this decision, though it should be favorable to 
our preceding judgment, being founded only on probability, 
must weaken still further our first evidence, and must itself be 
weakened by a fourth doubt of the same kind, and so on in 
infinitum; till at last there remain nothing of the original prob- 
ability, however great we may suppose it to have been, and 
however small the diminution by every new uncertainty. No 
finite object can subsist under a decrease repeated in infinitum; 
and even the vastest quantity, which can enter into human imag- 
ination, must in this manner be reduced to nothing. Let our 
first belief be never so strong, it must infallibly perish, by 
passing through so many new examinations of which each dimin- 
ishes somewhat of its force and vigor. When I reflect on the 
natural fallibility of my judgment, I have less confidence in my 
opinions, than when I only consider the objects concerning 
which I reason; and when I proceed still further, to turn the 
scrutiny against every successive estimation I make of my fac- 
ulties, all the rules of logic require a continual diminution, and 
at last a total extinction of belief and evidence. 

Should it here be asked me, whether I sincerely assent to this 
argument, which I seem to take such pains to inculcate, and 


whether I be really one of those sceptics, who hold that all is 
uncertain, and that our judgment is not in any thing possessed 
of any measures of truth and falsehood: I should reply, that 
this question is entirely superfluous, and that neither I, nor any 
other person, was ever sincerely and constantly of that opinion. 
Nature, by an absolute and uncontrollable necessity, has de- 
termined us to judge as well as to breathe and feel: nor can we 
any more forbear viewing certain objects in a stronger and 
fuller light, on account of their customary connection with a 
present impression, than we can hinder ourselves from thinking, 
as long as we are awake, or seeing the surrounding bodies, when 
we turn our eyes towards them in broad sunshine. Whoever has 
taken the pains to refute the cavils of this total scepticism, has 
really disputed without an antagonist, and endeavoured by argu- 
ments to establish a faculty, which nature has antecedently im- 
planted in the mind, and rendered unavoidable. 

My intention then in displaying so carefully the arguments 
of that fantastic sect, is only to make the reader sensible of 
the truth of my hypothesis, that all our reasonings concerning 
causes and effects, are derived from nothing but custom; and 
that belief is more properly an act of the sensitive, than of the 
cogitative part of our natures. . . . 

We may well ask, What causes induce us to believe in the 
existence of body? but it is in vain to ask, Whether there be 
body or not? The subject, then, of our present inquiry, is con- 
cerning; the causes which induce us to believe in the existence 
of body; and my reasonings on this head I shall begin with a 
distinction, which at first sight may seem superfluous, but which 
will contribute very much to the perfect understanding of what 
follows. We ought to examine apart these two questions, which 
are commonly confounded together, viz. W 7 hy we attribute a 
continued existence to objects, even when they are not present 
to the senses; and why we suppose them to have an existence 
distinct from the mind and perception? Under this last head 
I comprehend their situation as well as relations, their external 
position as well as the independence of their existence and oper- 
ation. These two questions concerning the continued and distinct 


existence of body are intimately connected together. For if the 
objects of our senses continue to exist, even when they are not 
perceived, their existence is of course independent of and dis- 
tinct from the perception; and vice versa, if their existence be 
independent of the perception, and distinct from it, they must 
continue to exist, even though they be not perceived. But though 
the decision of the one question decides the other; yet that we 
may the more easily discover the principles of human nature, 
from whence the decision arises, we shall carry along with us 
this distinction, and shall consider, whether it be the semes, 
reason, or the imagination that produces the opinion of a con- 
tinued or of a distinct existence. These are the only questions 
that are intelligible on the present subject. For as to the notion 
of external existence, when taken for something specifically dif- 
ferent from our perceptions, we have already shown its ab- 
surdity. (See Part II, Sect. 6.) 

To begin with the senses, it is evident these faculties are 
incapable of giving rise to the notion of the continued existence 
of their objects, after they no longer appear to the senses. For 
that is a contradiction in terms, and supposes that the senses 
continue to operate, even after they have ceased all manner of 
operation. These faculties, therefore, if they have any influence 
in the present case, must produce the opinion of a distinct, not 
of a continued existence; and in order to do that, must present 
their impressions either as images and representations, or as 
these very distinct and external existences. 

That our senses offer not their impressions as the images of 
something distinct, or independent, and external, is evident; be- 
cause they convey to us nothing but a single perception, and 
never give us the least intimation of any thing beyond. A single 
perception can never produce the idea of a double existence, 
but by some inference either of reason or imagination. When 
the mind looks further than what immediately appears to it, its 
conclusions can never be put to the account of the senses; and 
it certainly looks further, when from a single perception it in- 
fers a double existence, and supposes the relations of resemblance 
and causation betwixt them. 


If our senses, therefore, suggest any idea of distinct exist- 
ences, they must convey the impressions as those very existences, 
by a kind of fallacy and illusion. Upon this head we may 
observe, that all sensations are felt by the mind, such as they 
really are, and that, when we doubt whether they present them- 
selves as distinct objects, or as mere impressions, the difficulty 
is not concerning their nature, but concerning their relations 
and situation. Now, if the senses presented our impressions as 
external to, and independent of ourselves, both the objects and 
ourselves must be obvious to our senses, otherwise they could 
not be compared by these faculties. The difficulty then, is, how 
far we are ourselves the objects of our senses. . . . 

There are some philosophers, who imagine we are every 
moment intimately conscious of what we call our self; that we 
feel its existence and its continuance in existence; and are cer- 
tain, beyond the evidence of a demonstration, both of its perfect 
identity and simplicity. The strongest sensation, the most violent 
passion, say they, instead of distracting us from this view, only 
fix it the more intensely, and make us consider their influence 
on self either by their pain or pleasure. To attempt a further 
proof of this were to weaken its evidence; since no proof can 
be derived from any fact of which we are so intimately con- 
scious; nor is there any thing, of which we can be certain, if we 
doubt of this. 

Unluckily all these positive assertions are contrary to that 
very experience which is pleaded for them; nor have we any 
idea of self, after the manner it is here explained. For, from 
what impression could this idea be derived. This question it is 
impossible to answer without a manifest contradiction and 
absurdity; and yet it is a question which must necessarily be 
answered, if we would have the idea of self pass for clear and 
intelligible. It must be some one impression that gives rise to 
every real idea. But self or person is not any one impression, but 
that to which our several impressions and ideas are supposed 
to have a reference. If any impression gives rise to the idea of 
self, that impression must continue invariably the same, through 
the whole course of our lives, since self is supposed to exist 


after that manner. But there is no impression constant and in- 
variable. Pain and pleasure, grief and joy, passions and sensa- 
tions succeed each other, and never all exist at the same time. 
It cannot therefore be from any of these impressions, or from 
any other, that the idea of self is derived; and consequently 
there is no such idea. 

But further, what must become of all our particular per- 
ceptions upon this hypothesis? All these are different, and dis- 
tinguishable, and separable from each other, and may be 
separately considered, and may exist separately, and have no 
need of anything to support their existence. After what manner 
therefore do they belong to self, and how are they connected 
with it? For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I 
call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or 
other, of heat or cold, light or shade, love or hatred, pain or 
pleasure. I never can catch myself at any time without a per- 
ception, and never can observe any thing but the perception. 
When my perceptions are removed for any time, as by sound 
sleep, so long am I insensible of myself, and may truly be said 
not to exist. And were all my perceptions removed by death, and 
could I neither think, nor feel, nor see, nor love, nor hate, after 
the dissolution of my body, I should be entirely annihilated, 
nor do I conceive what is further requisite to make me a perfect 
nonentity. If any one, upon serious and unprejudiced reflection, 
thinks he has a different notion of himself, I must confess I 
can reason no longer with him. All I can allow him is, that he 
may be in the right as well as I, and that we are essentially 
different in this particular. He may, perhaps, perceive something 
simple and continued, which he calls himself; though I am cer- 
tain there is no such principle in me. 

But setting aside some metaphysicians of this kind, I may 
venture to affirm of the rest of mankind, that they are nothing 
but a bundle or collection of different perceptions, which suc- 
ceed each other with an inconceivable rapidity, and are in a 
perpetual flux and movement. Our eyes cannot turn in their 
sockets without varying our perceptions. Our thought is still 
more variable than our sight; and all our other senses and fac- 


ulties contribute to this change; nor is there any single power 
of the soul, which remains unalterably the same, perhaps for 
one moment. The mind is a kind of theatre, where several per- 
ceptions successively make their appearance; pass, repass, glide 
away, and mingle in an infinite variety of postures and situa- 
tions. There is properly no simplicity in it at one time, nor 
identity in different, whatever natural propension we may have 
to imagine that simplicity and identity. The comparison of the 
theatre must not mislead us. They are the successive perceptions 
only, that constitute the mind; nor have we the most distant 
notion of the place where these scenes are represented, or of 
the materials of which it is composed. 

What then gives us so great a propension to ascribe an 
identity to these successive perceptions, and to suppose ourselves 
possessed of an invariable and uninterrupted existence through 
the whole course of our lives? In order to answer this question, 
we must distinguish betwixt personal identity, as it regards 
our thought or imagination, and as it regards our passions or 
the concern we take in ourselves. The first is our present sub- 
ject; and to explain it perfectly we must take the matter pretty 
deep, and account for that identity, which we attribute to 
plants and animals; there being a great analogy betwixt it and 
the identity of a self or person. 

We have a distinct idea of an object that remains invariable 
and uninterrupted through a supposed variation of time; and 
this idea we call that of identity or sameness. We have also a 
distinct idea of several different objects existing in succession, 
and connected together by a close relation; and this to an ac- 
curate view affords as perfect a notion of diversity, as if there 
were no manner of relation among the objects. But though these 
two ideas of identity and a succession of related objects, be in 
themselves perfectly distinct, and even contrary, yet it is certain 
that, in our common way of thinking, they are generally con- 
founded with each other. That action of the imagination by 
which we consider the uninterrupted and invariable object, and 
that by which we reflect on the succession of related objects, are 
almost the same to the feeling; nor is there much more effort 



of thought required in the latter case than in the former. The 
relation facilitates the transition of the mind from one object 
to another, and renders its passage as smooth as if it contem- 
plated one continued object. The resemblance is the cause of 
the confusion and mistake, and makes us substitute the notion 
of identity, instead of that of related objects. However at one 
instant we may consider the related succession as variable or 
interrupted, we are sure the next to ascribe to it a perfect iden- 
tity, and regard it as invariable and uninterrupted. Our propen- 
sity to this mistake is so great from the resemblance above 
mentioned, that we fall into it before we are aware; and though 
we incessantly correct ourselves by reflection, and return to a 
more accurate method of thinking, yet we cannot long sustain 
our philosophy, or take off this bias from the imagination. Our 
last resort is to yield to it, and boldlv assert that these different 
related objects are in effect the same, however interrupted and 
variable. In order to justify to ourselves this absurdity, we often 
feign some new and unintelligible principle, that connects the 
objects together, and prevents their interruption or variation. 
Thus we feign the continued existence of the perceptions of our 
senses, to remove the interruption; and run into the notion of 
a soul, and self, and substance, to disguise the variation. . . . 

The intense view of these manifold contradictions and im- 
perfections in human reason has so wrought upon me, and 
heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all belief and reason- 
ing, and can look upon no opinion even as more probable or 
likely than another. Where am I, or what? From what causes 
do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? 
Whose favor shall I court, and whose anger must I dread? What 
beings surround me? and on whom have I any influence, or who 
have any influence on me? I am confounded with all these 
questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable 
condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and 
utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty. 

Most fortunatclv it happens, that since reason is incapable 
of dispelling these clouds, Nature herself suffices to that purpose, 


and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, 
either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and 
lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chim- 
eras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am 
merry with mv friends; and when, after three or four hours' 
amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear 
so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my 
heart to enter into them any further. 

Here, then, I find myself absolutely and necessarily deter- 
mined to live, and talk, and act like other people in the common 
affairs of life. But notwithstanding that my natural propensity 
and the course of my animal spirits and passions reduce me to 
this indolent belief in the general maxims of the world, I still 
feel such remains of my former disposition, that I am ready to 
throw all my books and papers into the fire, and resolve never 
more to renounce the pleasures of life for the sake of reason- 
ing and philosophy. 1 

1 See Sir William Hamilton's evaluation of Hume's skepticism, pp. 220 
ff., below. (Editor's note.) 


Adam Smith 

The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

Adam Smith, 1723-1790, was born at Kirkaldy, Scotland; studied 
at the University of Glasgow, 1737-40, and at Balliol College, 
Oxford, 1740-1747. Lecturer at Edinburgh, 1748-57. Professor 
of Logic in the University of Glasgow, 1751-2, and Professor 
of Moral Philosophy, 1752-1763. Travelled on the continent, 
1764-1766. Composed his Wealth of Nations at Kirkaldy, 1766- 
78. Resided at London, 1776-78. Commissioner of Customs at 
Edinburgh, 1776-1790. In 1787, Rector of the University of 

Adam Smith is best known by his Wealth of Nations, Lon- 
don, 1776. Additions and corrections to first and second editions, 
1784. Third edition, with additions and corrections, 1784, and 
many subsequent editions in England and America. The Theory 
of Moral Sentiments, 1759, was his most important contribution 
to Ethical Philosophy, and is characterized by consummate in- 
genuity in its analyses of ethical phenomena, and by the afflu- 
ence of its interesting illustrations, and the elegance of its some- 
what elaborate diction. The theory of Smith is an offshoot of the 
theory of Hume. 

David Hume, in his Enquiry concerning the Principles of 
Morals, had agreed with Hutcheson— in this differing from 
Hobbcs, with whom he affiliates in so man} 7 particulars— in 
holding that man is capable of a disinterested regard for others. 
He had also discriminated in ethical experiences between the 


functions of reason and sentiment— in this making an important 
advance upon Hutcheson, who did not assign to reason a distinct 
and special office. He emphasized with great earnestness the 
doctrine that utility is the fundamental characteristic of virtu- 
ous actions. Hume had also insisted, almost in the spirit of 
paradox, that virtue and vice, merit and demerit, are as properly 
affirmed of the operations of the understanding, and even of 
any pleasing or displeasing corporeal or personal qualities, as 
of the sentiments or acts in which there is a voluntary element. 
That which leads us to approve or disapprove moral excellences 
and defects he calls Benevolence in the Enquiry, and Sympathy 
in the Treatise of Human Nature. 

The doctrine of sympathy, which Hume had suggested, was 
accepted by Smith, then was established as a fundamental and 
all-comprehensive principle, and expanded into an elaborate 
theory. The Theory of Moral Sentiments is devoted especially 
to the analyses of those ethical experiences which are subjective, 
rather than to the definition of the objective conceptions which 
are the material of moral science. The sense of Propriety, of 
Merit and Demerit, and the sense of Approbation and Disappro- 
bation, are the prominent topics of discussion in the first three 
parts of the Essay. All these are resolved into an original capac- 
ity in man to sympathize with the real or supposed sentiments 
of his fellow men. To sympathize with the feelings of another, 
in the view of Adam Smith, is to approve them. All those actions 
with which we entirely sympathize we judge to be morally 
proper. As we must alternately lower or elevate our feelings 
to the tone of those which we suppose to be entertained by our 
fellow-men, we have the feeling of the morally beautiful and 
the morally sublime. This sympathy is sometimes divided 
between two classes of actions which conflict. In the benevolent 
affections there is a double motive, in our sympathy with those 
who feel these affections and with those who are the objectives 
of these affections. 

Merit and demerit arise from our sympathy with the sup- 
posed gratitude of those who are benefited, and the resentment 
of those who are injured. The sentiment is compound, being 


made up of a direct sympathy with the sentiments of the agent, 
and an indirect sympathy with the gratitude of the recipient. 
Our sentiments of moral approbation and disapprobation de- 
pend on our sympathy with the supposed approbation of our 
fellow-men in general. "We suppose ourselves the spectators of 
our own behavior, and endeavor to imagine what effect it would 
in this light produce in us." Man could no more originate nor 
apply the conception of the law of duty, except in society, than 
he could judge of his own face without the aid of a mirror. The 
rules of morality are all derived from, and constituted by, these 
supposed opinions of society. They coincide with what Locke 
calls the philosophical law of right and wrong, or the law of 
opinion or reputation. (Essay, B. II., c. xxviii, section 10.) 

Other elements which are secondary come in subsequently 
to modify and enforce the sentiments which originate in sym- 
pathy. "When we approve of any character or action, our senti- 
ments are derived from four sources: first, we sympathize with 
the motives of the agent; secondly, we enter into the gratitude 
of those who have been benefited by his actions; thirdly, we ob- 
serve that his conduct has been agreeable to the general rules 
by which these two sympathies generally act; and last of all, 
when we consider such actions as forming parts of a system 
of behavior which tends to promote happiness of the individual 
or of society, they appear to derive a beauty from this utility 
not unlike that which we ascribe to any well-contrived machine." 

It hardly need be added that Smith agrees with Hume in 
attaching great importance to custom, i.e., in impliedly recog- 
nizing the operation of association as supreme. His theory in its 
fundamental assumptions in a certain sense brings him back to 
this as the principle which is formative of the entire structure 
of our moral judgments and emotions. 


Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiment 

By Dugald Stewart 

This selection is from Dugald Stewart's memoir of Adam Smith 
entitled Account of the Life and Writings of Adam Smith. It is 
taken from The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart, edited by Sir 
William Hamilton (Edinburgh: Thomas Constable and Co., 1858), 
Vol. X, pp. 16-30. However, on the death of Hamilton in May, 
1856, John Veitch became editor, and he did part of the editorial 
work on Volume X. See the Preface to that volume. This memoir 
is reprinted as the Introduction to the Bohn's Libraries edition of 
Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments. It was also published 
in the third volume of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edin- 
burgh, and was read by Stewart at different periods in 1793 at 
meetings of the Royal Society. 

It was the opinion of Dr. Cudworth, and also of Dr. Clarke, 
that moral distinctions are perceived by that power of the mind, 
which distinguishes truth from falsehood. This system it was one 
great object of Dr. Hutcheson's philosophy to refute, and in 
opposition to it, to show that the words Right and Wrong 
express certain agreeable and disagreeable qualities in actions, 
which it is not the province of reason but of feeling to per- 
ceive; and to that power of perception which renders us sus- 
ceptible of pleasure or of pain from the view of virtue or of 
vice, he gave the name of the Moral Sense. His reasonings upon 
the subject are in the main acquiesced in, both by Mr. Hume 
and Mr. Smith; but they differ from him in one important par- 
ticular— Dr. Hutcheson plainly supposing, that the Moral Sense 
is a simple principle of our constitution, of which no account 
can be given; whereas the other two philosophers have both 
attempted to analyze it into other principles more general. Their 
systems, however, with respect to it are very different from each 
other. According to Mr. Hume, all the qualities which are de- 
nominated virtuous are useful either to ourselves or to others, 


and the pleasure which we derive from the view of them is the 
pleasure of utility. Mr. Smith, without rejecting entirely Mr. 
Hume's doctrine, proposes another of his own far more com- 
prehensive, a doctrine with which he thinks all the most cele- 
brated theories of morality invented by his predecessors coincide 
in part, and from some partial view of which he apprehends that 
they have all proceeded. . . . 

The fundamental principle of Mr. Smith's theory is, that the 
primary objects of our moral perceptions are the actions of other 
men; and that our moral judgments with respect to our own 
conduct are only applications to ourselves of decisions which we 
have already passed on the conduct of our neighbour. His work 
accordingly includes two distinct inquiries, which, although 
sometimes blended together in the execution of his general de- 
sign, it is necessary for the reader to discriminate carefully from 
each other, in order to comprehend all the different bearings 
of the author's argument. The aim of the former inquiry is, 
to explain in what manner we learn to judge of the conduct 
of our neighbour; that of the latter, to show how, by applying 
these judgments to ourselves, we acquire a sense of duty, and a 
feeling of its paramount authority over all our other principles 
of action. 

Our moral judgments, both with respect to our own conduct 
and that of others, include two distinct perceptions: first, A 
perception of conduct as right or wrong; and, secondly, A per- 
ception of the merit or demerit of the agent. To that quality of 
conduct which moralists, in general, express by the word Recti- 
tude, Mr. Smith gives the name of Propriety; and he begins his 
theory with inquiring in what it consists, and how we are led 
to form the idea of it. The leading principles of his doctrine on 
this subject are comprehended in the following propositions: 

1. It is from our own experience alone, that we can form 
any idea of what passes in the mind of another person on any 
particular occasion; and the only way in which we can form 
this idea is by supposing ourselves in the same circumstances 
with him, and conceiving how we should be affected if we were 
so situated. It is impossible for us, however, to conceive our- 


selves placed in any situation, whether agreeable or otherwise, 
without feeling an effect of the same kind with what would be 
produced by the situation itself; and of consequence the atten- 
tion we give at any time to the circumstances of our neighbour, 
must affect us somewhat in the same manner, although by no 
means in the same degree, as if these circumstances were our 

That this imaginary change of place with other men, is the 
real source of the interest we take in their fortunes, Mr. Smith 
attempts to prove by various instances. "When we see a stroke 
aimed, and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another 
person, we naturally shrink and draw back our own leg or our 
own arm; and when it does fall, we feel it in some measure, and 
are hurt by it as well as the sufferer. The mob, when they are 
gazing at a dancer on the slack-rope, naturally writhe and twist 
and balance their own bodies, as they see him do, and as they 
feel that they themselves must do if in his situation." x The 
same thing takes place, according to Mr. Smith, in every case 
in which our attention is turned to the condition of our neigh- 
bour. "Whatever is the passion which arises from any object in 
the person principally concerned, an analogous emotion springs 
up, at the thought of his situation, in the breast of every atten- 
tive spectator. ... In every passion of which the mind of man 
is susceptible, the emotions of the bystander always correspond 
to what, by bringing the case home to himself, he imagines 
should be the sentiments of the sufferer." 2 

To this principle of our nature which leads us to enter into 
the situation of other men, and to partake with them in the 
passions which these situations have a tendency to excite, Mr. 
Smith gives the name of Sympathy or Fellow-feeling, which two 
words he employs as synonymous. Upon some occasions he 
acknowledges, that sympathy arises merely from the view of a 
certain emotion in another person; but in general it arises, not 
so much from the view of the emotion, as from that of the situ- 
ation which excites it. 

1 Moral Sentiments, Part I, sect, i, chap. 1; sixth and later editions. 

2 Ibid. 



2. A sympathy or fellow-feeling between different persons 
is always agreeable to both. When I am in a situation which 
excites any passion, it is pleasant to me to know, that the 
spectators of my situation enter with me into all its various 
circumstances, and are affected with them in the same manner 
as I am myself. On the other hand, it is pleasant to the spectator 
to observe this correspondence of his emotions with mine. 

3. When the spectator of another man's situation, upon bring- 
ing home to himself all its various circumstances, feels himself 
affected in the same manner with the person principally con- 
cerned, he approves of the affection or passion of this person 
as just and proper, and suitable to its object. The exceptions 
which occur to this observation are, according to Mr. Smith, 
only apparent. 

A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks of the 
deepest affliction; and we are immediately told that he has 
just received the news of the death of his father. It is impossible 
that, in this case, we should not approve of his grief. Yet it may 
often happen, without any defect of humanity on our part, that, 
so far from entering into the violence of his sorrow, we should 
scarce conceive the first movements of concern upon his ac- 
count. . . . We have learned, however, from experience, that 
such a misfortune naturally excites such a degree of sorrow, and 
we know that if we took time to examine his situation fully and 
in all its parts, we should, without doubt, most sincerely sym- 
pathize with him. It is upon the consciousness of this conditional 
sympathy, that our approbation of his sorrow is founded, even 
in those cases in which that sympathy does not actually take 
place; and the general rules derived from our preceding experi- 
ence of what . . . our sentiments would commonly correspond 
with, correct the impropriety of our present emotions. 3 

By the Propriety therefore of any affection or passion exhib- 
ited by another person, is to be understood its suitableness to 
the object which excites it. Of this suitableness I can judge only 
from the coincidence of the affection with that which I feel, 
when I conceive myself in the same circumstances; and the per- 

3 Ibid., Part I, sect, i, chap. 3; sixth and later editions. 


ception of this coincidence is the foundation of the sentiment 
of Moral Approbation. 

4. Although, when we attend to the situation of another per- 
son, and conceive ourselves to be placed in his circumstances, 
an emotion of the same kind with that which he feels naturally 
arises in our own mind, yet this sympathetic emotion bears but 
a very small proportion, in point of degree, to what is felt by 
the person principally concerned. In order, therefore, to obtain 
the pleasure of mutual sympathy, nature teaches the spectator 
to strive, as much as he can, to raise his emotion to a level with 
that which the object would really produce: and, on the other 
hand, she teaches the person whose passion this object has ex- 
cited, to bring it down, as much as he can, to a level with that 
of the spectator. 

5. Upon these two different efforts are founded two different 
sets of virtues. Upon the effort of the spectator to enter into 
the situation of the person principally concerned, and to raise 
his sympathetic emotions to a level with the emotions of the 
actor, are founded the gentle, the amiable virtues; the virtues 
of candid condescension and indulgent humanity. Upon the 
effort of the person principally concerned to lower his own 
emotions, so as to correspond as nearly as possible with those 
of the spectator, are founded the great, the awful, and respect- 
able virtues; the virtues of self-denial, of self-government, of 
that command of the passions, which subjects all the movements 
of our nature to what our own dignity and honour, and the 
propriety of our own conduct, require. 

As a farther illustration of the foregoing doctrine, Mr. Smith 
considers particularly the degree of the different passions which 
are consistent with propriety, and endeavours to show, that, in 
every case, it is decent or indecent to express a passion strongly, 
according as mankind are disposed, or not disposed, to sympa- 
thize with it. It is unbecoming, for example, to express strongly 
any of those passions which arise from a certain condition of 
the body; because other men, who are not in the same con- 
dition, cannot be expected to sympathize with them. It is un- 
becoming to cry out with bodily pain; because the sympathy 


felt by the spectator bears no proportion to the acuteness of 
what is felt by the sufferer. The case is somewhat similar with 
those passions which take their origin from a particular turn 
or habit of the imagination. 

In the case of the unsocial passions of hatred and resentment, 
the sympathy of the spectator is divided between the person 
who feels the passion, and the person who is the object of it. 
"We are concerned for both, and our fear for what the one 
may suffer damps our resentment for what the other has suf- 
fered." 4 Hence the imperfect degree in which we sympathize 
with such passions; and the propriety, when we are under their 
influence, of moderating their expression to a much greater de- 
gree than is required in the case of any other emotions. 

The reverse of this takes place with respect to all the social 
and benevolent affections. The sympathy of the spectator with 
the person who feels them, coincides with his concern for the 
person who is the object of them. It is this redoubled sympathy 
which renders these affections so peculiarly becoming and agree- 

The selfish emotions of grief and joy, when they are con- 
ceived on account of our own private good or bad fortune, 
hold a sort of middle place between our social and our unsocial 
passions. They are never so graceful as the one set, nor so 
odious as the other. Even when excessive, they are never so 
disagreeable as excessive resentment; because no opposite sym- 
pathy can ever interest us against them: and when most suitable 
to their objects, they are never so agreeable as impartial human- 
ity and just benevolence; because no double sympathy can ever 
interest us for them. 

After these general speculations concerning the propriety 
of actions, Mr. Smith examines how far the judgments of man- 
kind concerning it are liable to be influenced, in particular cases, 
by the prosperous or the adverse circumstances of the agent. 
The scope of his reasoning on this subject is directed to show 
(in opposition to the common opinion,) that when there is no 

4 Ibid., Part I, sect, ii, chap. 3; sixth and later editions. 


envy in the case, our propensity to sympathize with joy is much 
stronger than our propensity to sympathize with sorrow: and, 
of consequence, that it is more easy to obtain the approbation 
of mankind in prosperity than in adversity. From the same prin- 
ciple he traces the origin of ambition, or of the desire of rank 
and pre-eminence; the great object of which passion is, to attain 
that situation which sets a man most in the view of general 
sympathy and attention, and gives him an easy empire over the 
affections of others. 

Having finished the analysis of our sense of Propriety and of 
Impropriety, Mr. Smith proceeds to consider our sense of Merit 
and Demerit; which he thinks has also a reference, in the first 
instance, not to our own characters, but to the characters of our 
neighbours. In explaining the origin of this part of our moral 
constitution, he avails himself of the same principle of sympathy, 
into which he resolves the sentiment of moral approbation. 

The words propriety and impropriety, which applied to an 
affection of the mind, are used in this theory (as has been 
already observed) to express the suitableness or unsuitableness 
of the affection to its exciting cause. The words merit and de- 
merit have always a reference (according to Mr. Smith) to the 
effect which the affection tends to produce. When the tendency 
of an affection is beneficial, the agent appears to us a proper 
object of reward; when it is hurtful, he appears the proper 
object of punishment. 

The principles of our nature which most directly prompt us 
to reward and to punish are gratitude and resentment. To say 
of a person, therefore, that he is deserving of reward or of pun- 
ishment, is to say, in other words, that he is a proper object of 
gratitude or of resentment; or, which amounts to the same thing, 
that he is to some person or persons the object of a gratitude 
or of a resentment, which every reasonable man is ready to 
adopt and sympathize with. 

It is, however, very necessary to observe, that we do not 
thoroughly sympathize with the gratitude of one man towards 
another, merely because this other has been the cause of his good 
fortune, unless he has been the cause of it from motives which 


we entirely go along with. Our sense, therefore, of the good 
desert of an action, is a compounded sentiment, made up of an 
indirect sympathy with the person to whom the action is bene- 
ficial, and of a direct sympathy with the affections and motives 
of the agent. The same remark applies, mutatis mutandis, to our 
sense of demerit, or of ill-desert. 

From these principles, it is inferred, that the only actions 
which appear to us deserving of reward, are actions of a bene- 
ficial tendency, proceeding from proper motives; the only ac- 
tions which seem to deserve punishment, are actions of a 
hurtful tendency, proceeding from improper motives. A mere 
want of beneficence exposes to no punishment; because the mere 
want of beneficence tends to do no real positive evil. A man, 
on the other hand, who is barely innocent, and contents him- 
self with observing strictly the laws of justice with respect to 
others, can merit only, that his neighbours, in their turn, should 
observe religiously the same laws with respect to him. 

These observations lead Mr. Smith to anticipate a little the 
subject of the second great division of his work, by a short in- 
quiry into the origin of our sense of justice, as applicable to our 
own conduct; and also of our sentiments of remorse, and of 
good desert. 

The origin of our sense of justice, as well as of all our other 
moral sentiments, he accounts for by means of the principle of 
sympathy. When I attend only to the feelings of my own breast, 
my own happiness appears to me of far greater consequence 
than of all the world besides. But I am conscious that, in this 
excessive preference, other men cannot possibly sympathize with 
me, and that to them I appear only one of the crowd, in whom 
they are no more interested than in any other individual. If 
I wish, therefore, to secure their sympathy and approbation 
(which, according to Mr. Smith, are the objects of the strongest 
desire of my nature), it is necessary for me to regard my happi- 
ness, not in that light in which it appears to myself, but in that 
light in which it appears to mankind in general. If an unpro- 
voked injury is offered to me, I know that society will sympa- 
thize with my resentment; but if I injure the interests of another, 


who never injured me, merely because they stand in the way of 
my own, I perceive evidently, that society will sympathize with 
his resentment, and that I shall become the object of general 

When upon any occasion I am led by the violence of passion 
to overlook these considerations, and, in the case of a competi- 
tion of interests, to act according to my own feelings, and not 
according to those of impartial spectators, I never fail to incur 
the punishment of remorse. When my passion is gratified, and 
I begin to reflect coolly on my conduct I can no longer enter 
into the motives from which it proceeded; it appears as im- 
proper to me as to the rest of the world; I lament the effects 
it has produced; I pity the unhappy sufferer whom I have in- 
jured; and I feel myself a just object of indignation to mankind. 
"Such," says Mr. Smith, "is the nature of that sentiment which 
is properly called remorse. It is made up of shame from the 
sense of the impropriety of past conduct; of grief for the effects 
of it; of pity for those who suffer by it; and of the dread and 
terror of punishment from the consciousness of the justly pro- 
voked resentment of all rational creatures." 5 

The opposite behaviour of him who, from proper motives, 
has performed a generous action, inspires, in a similar manner, 
the opposite sentiment of conscious merit, or of deserved re- 

The foregoing observations contain a general summary of 
Mr. Smith's principles with respect to the origin of our moral 
sentiments, in so far at least as they relate to the conduct of 
others. He acknowledges, at the same time, that the sentiments 
of which we are conscious, on particular occasions, do not al- 
ways coincide with these principles; and that they are frequently 
modified by other considerations, very different from the pro- 
priety or impropriety of the affections of the agent, and also from 
the beneficial or hurtful tendency of these affections. The good 
or the bad consequences which accidentally follow from an 

5 Ibid., Part II, sect, ii, chap. 2; sixth and later editions. 



action, and which, as they do not depend on the agent, ought 
undoubtedly, in point of justice, to have no influence on our 
opinion, either of the propriety or the merit of his conduct, 
scarcely ever fail to influence considerably our judgment with 
respect to both; by leading us to form a good or a bad opinion 
of the prudence with which the action was performed, and by 
animating our sense of the merit or demerit of his design. These 
facts, however, do not furnish any objections which are peculi- 
arly applicable to Mr. Smith's theory; for whatever hypothesis 
we may adopt with respect to the origin of our moral percep- 
tions, all men must acknowledge, that, in so far as the prosperous 
or the unprosperous event of an action depends on fortune or 
on accident, it ought neither to increase nor to diminish our 
moral approbation or disapprobation of the agent. And accord- 
ingly it has, in all ages of the world, been the complaint of 
moralists, that the actual sentiments of mankind should so often 
be in opposition to this equitable and indisputable maxim. In 
examining, therefore, this irregularity of our moral sentiments, 
Mr. Smith is to be considered, not as obviating an objection 
peculiar to his own system, but as removing a difficulty which 
is equally connected with every theory on the subject which 
has ever been proposed. So far as I know, he is the first philoso- 
pher who has been fully aware of the importance of the diffi- 
culty, and he has indeed treated it with great ability and success. 
The explanation which he gives of it is not warped in the least 
by any peculiarity in his own scheme; and, I must own, it 
appears to me to be the most solid and valuable improvement 
he has made in this branch of science. It is impossible to give 
any abstract of it in a sketch of this kind; and, therefore, I 
must content myself with remarking, that is consists of three 
parts. The first explains the causes of this irregularity of senti- 
ment; the second, the extent of its influence; and the third, the 
important purposes in which it is subservient. His remarks on 
the last of these heads are more particularly ingenious and pleas- 
ing; as their object is to show, in opposition to what we should 
be disposed at first to apprehend, that when nature implanted 


the seeds of this irregularity in the human breast, her leading 
intention was, to promote the happiness and perfection of the 

The remaining part of Mr. Smith's theory is employed in 
showing, in what manner our sense of duty comes to be formed, 
in consequence of an application to ourselves of the judgments 
we have previously passed on the conduct of others. 

In entering upon this inquiry, which is undoubtedly the most 
important in the work, and for which the foregoing speculations 
are, according to Mr. Smith's theory, a necessary preparation, 
he begins with stating the fact concerning our consciousness of 
merited praise or blame; and it must be owned, that the first 
aspect of the fact, as he himself states it, appears not very 
favourable to his principles. That the great object of a wise 
and virtuous man is not to act in such a manner as to obtain 
the actual approbation of those around him, but to act so as 
to render himself the just and proper object of their approbation, 
and that his satisfaction with his own conduct depends much 
more on the consciousness of deserving this approbation, than 
from that of really enjoying it, he candidly acknowledges; but 
still he insists, that although this may seem, at first view, to 
intimate the existence of some moral faculty which is not bor- 
rowed from without, our moral sentiments have always some 
secret reference, either to what are, or to what upon a certain 
condition would be, or to what we imagine ought to be, the 
sentiments of others; and that if it were possible, that a human 
creature could grow up to manhood without any communica- 
tion with his own species, he could no more think of his own 
character, or of the propriety or demerit of his own sentiments 
and conduct, than of the beauty or deformity of his own face. 
There is indeed a tribunal within the breast, which is the su- 
preme arbiter of all our actions, and which often mortifies us 
amidst the applause, and supports us under the censure of the 
world; yet still, he contends, that if we inquire into the origin 
of its institution, we shall find that its jurisdiction is, in a great 
measure, derived from the authority of that very tribunal whose 
decisions it so often and so justly reverses. 


When we first come into the world, we, for some time, fondly 
pursue the impossible project of gaining the good-will and ap- 
probation of everybody. We soon, however, find, that this uni- 
versal approbation is unattainable; that the most equitable 
conduct must frequently thwart the interests or the inclinations 
of particular persons, who will seldom have candour enough to 
enter into the propriety of our motives, or to see that this con- 
duct, how disagreeable soever to them, is perfectly suitable to 
our situation. In order to defend ourselves from such partial 
judgments, we soon learn to set up in our own minds, a judge 
between ourselves and those we live with. We conceive our- 
selves as acting in the presence of a person, who has no particu- 
lar relation, either to ourselves, or to those whose interests are 
affected by our conduct; and we study to act in such a manner 
as to obtain the approbation of this supposed impartial spec- 
tator. It is only by consulting him that we can see whatever 
relates to ourselves in its proper shape and dimensions. 

There are two different occasions, on which we examine our 
own conduct, and endeavour to view it in the light in which 
the impartial spectator would view it. First, when we are about 
to act; and, secondly, after we have acted. In both cases, our 
views are very apt to be partial. 

When we are about to act, the eagerness of passion seldom 
allows us to consider what we are doing with the candour of 
an indifferent person. When the action is over, and the passions 
which prompted it have subsided, although we can undoubtedly 
enter into the sentiments of the indifferent spectator much more 
coolly than before, yet it is so disagreeable to us to think ill 
of ourselves, that we often purposely turn away our view from 
those circumstances which might render our judgment unfavor- 
able. Hence that self-deceit which is the source of half the dis- 
orders of human life. 

In order to guard ourselves against its delusions, nature leads 
us to form insensibly, by our continual observations upon the 
conduct of others, certain general rules concerning what is fit 
and proper either to be done or avoided. Some of their actions 
shock all our natural sentiments; and when we observe other peo- 


pie affected in the same manner with ourselves, we are confirmed 
in the belief, that our disapprobation was just. We naturally, 
therefore, lay it down as a general rule, that all such actions 
are to be avoided, as tending to render us odious, contemptible, 
or punishable; and we endeavour, by habitual reflection, to fix 
this general rule in our minds, in order to correct the misrep- 
resentations of self-love, if we should ever be called on to act 
in similar circumstances. The man of furious resentment, if he 
were to listen to the dictates of that passion, would regard the 
death of his enemy as but a small compensation for a trifling 
wrong. But his observations on the conduct of others have taught 
him how horrible such sanguinary revenges are; and he has 
impressed it on his mind as an invariable rule, to abstain from 
them upon all occasions. This rule preserves its authority with 
him, checks the impetuosity of his passion, and corrects the 
partial views which self-love suggests; although, if this had 
been the first time in which he considered such an action, he 
would undoubtedly have determined it to be just and proper, 
and what every impartial spectator would approve of. A regard 
to such general rules of morality, constitutes, according to Mr. 
Smith, what is properly called the sense of duty. 

I before hinted, that Mr. Smith does not reject entirely from 
his system that principle of utility, of which the perception in 
any action or character constitutes, according to Mr. Hume, the 
sentiment of moral approbation. That no qualities of the mind 
are approved of as virtues, but such as are useful or agreeable, 
either to the person himself or to others, he admits to be a 
proposition that holds universally; and he also admits, that the 
sentiment of approbation with which we regard virtue, is en- 
livened by the perception of this utility, or, as he explains the 
fact, it is enlivened by our sympathy with the happiness of 
those to whom the utility extends: but still he insists, that it is 
not the view of this utility which is either the first or principal 
source of moral approbation. 

To sum up the whole of his doctrine in a few words: "When 
we approve of any character or action, the sentiments which we 
feel are derived from four different sources. First, we sympathize 


with the motives of the agent; secondly, we enter into the grati- 
tude of those who receive the benefit of his actions; thirdly, 
we observe that his conduct has been agreeable to the general 
rules by which those two sympathies generally act; and, lastly, 
when we consider such actions as making a part of a system of 
behaviour which tends to promote the happiness either of the 
individual or of society, they appear to derive a beauty from 
this utility, not unlike that which we ascribe to any well-con- 
trived machine." These different sentiments, he thinks, exhaust 
completely, in every instance that can be supposed, the com- 
pounded sentiment of moral approbation. "After deducting," says 
he, "in any one particular case, all that must be acknowledged to 
proceed from some one or other of these four principles, I 
should be glad to know what remains; and I shall freely allow 
this overplus to be ascribed to a moral sense, or to any other 
peculiar faculty, provided anybody will ascertain precisely what 
this overplus is." 6 

Mr. Smith's opinion concerning the nature of Virtue is in- 
volved in his theory concerning the principle of Moral Appro- 
bation. The idea of virtue, he thinks, always implies the idea 
of propriety, or of the suitableness of the affection to the object 
which excites it; which suitableness, according to him, can be 
determined in no other way than by the sympathy of impartial 
spectators with the motives of the agent. But still he apprehends, 
that this description of virtue is incomplete; for although in 
every virtuous action propriety is an essential ingredient, it is 
not always the sole ingredient. Beneficent actions have in them 
another quality, by which they appear, not only to deserve ap- 
probation, but recompense, and excite a superior degree of 
esteem, arising from a double sympathy with the motives of the 
agent, and the gratitude of those who are the objects of his 
affection. In this respect, beneficence appears to him to be dis- 
tinguished from the inferior virtues of prudence, vigilance, cir- 
cumspection, temperance, constancy, firmness, which are always 
regarded with approbation, but which confer no merit. This 

G Ibid., Part VII, sect, iii, chap. 3; sixth and later editions. 


distinction, he apprehends, has not been sufficiently attended to 
by moralists; the principles of some affording no explanation of 
the approbation we bestow on the inferior virtues; and those of 
others accounting as imperfectly for the peculiar excellency 
which the supreme virtue of beneficence is acknowledged to 

Of the Marnier in Which We Judge of the 

Propriety or Impropriety of the Affections 

of Other Men, by Their Concord or 

Dissonance With Our Own 

By Adam Smith 

This selection is from Part I, Section II, Chapters 2 and 3, of the 
first edition of Adam Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments (Lon- 
don: A. Millar, MDCCLIX), pp. 22-40. It expounds Smith's theory 
of mutual sympathy and the impartial spectator. 

When the original passions of the person principally con- 
cerned are in perfect concord with the sympathetic emotions of 
the spectator, they necessarily appear to this last just and proper, 
and suitable to their objects; and, on the contrary, when, upon 
bringing the case home to himself, he finds that they do not 
coincide with what he feels, they necessarily appear to him un- 
just and improper, and unsuitable to the causes which excite 
them. To approve of the passions of another, therefore, as suit- 
able to their objects, is the same thing, as to observe that we 
entirely sympathize with them; and not to approve of them as 
such, is the same thing as to observe that we do not entirely 
sympathize with them. The man who resents the injuries that 
have been done to me, and observes that I resent them pre- 
cisely as he does, necessarily approves of my resentment. The 



man whose sympathy keeps time to my grief, cannot but admit 
the reasonableness of my sorrow. He who admires the same 
poem, or the same picture, and admires them exactly as I do, 
must surely allow the justness of my admiration. He who laughs 
at the same joke, and laughs along with me, cannot well deny 
the propriety of my laughter. On the contrary, the person who, 
upon these different occasions, either feels no such emotion as 
that which I feel, or feels none that bears any proportion to 
mine, cannot avoid disapproving my sentiments on account of 
their dissonance with his own. If my animosity goes beyond 
what the indignation of my friend can correspond to; if my 
grief exceeds what his most tender compassion can go along 
with; if my admiration is either too high or too low to tally 
with his own; if I laugh loud and heartily at what he only 
smiles, or, on the contrary, only smile when he laughs loud 
and heartily; in all these cases, as soon as he comes from con- 
sidering the object, to observe how I am affected by it, accord- 
ing as there is more or less disproportion between his sentiments 
and mine, I must incur a greater or less degree of his disappro- 
bation: and upon all occasions his own sentiments are the stand- 
ards and measures by which he judges of mine. 

To approve of another man's opinions is to adopt those opin- 
ions, and to adopt them is to approve of them. If the same 
arguments which convince you convince me likewise, I neces- 
sarily approve of your conviction; and if they do not, I neces- 
sarily disapprove of it: neither can I possibly conceive that I 
should do the one without the other. To approve or disapprove, 
therefore, of the opinions of others is acknowledged, by every- 
body, to mean no more than to observe their agreement or 
disagreement with our own. But this is equally the case with 
regard to our approbation or disapprobation of the sentiments 
or passions of others. 

There are, indeed, some cases in which we seem to approve 
without any sympathy or correspondence of sentiments, and in 
which, consequently, the sentiment of approbation would seem 
to be different from the perception of this coincidence. A little 
attention, however, will convince us that even in these cases our 


approbation is ultimately founded upon a sympathy or corres- 
pondence of this kind. I shall give an instance in things of a 
very frivolous nature, because in them the judgments of mankind 
are less apt to be perverted by wrong systems. We may often 
approve of a jest, and think the laughter of the company quite 
just and proper, though we ourselves do not laugh, because, 
perhaps, we are in a grave humour, or happen to have our 
attention engaged with other objects. We have learned, how- 
ever, from experience, what sort of pleasantry is upon most oc- 
casions capable of making us laugh, and we observe that this 
is one of that kind. We approve, therefore, of the laughter of 
the company, and feel that it is natural and suitable to its ob- 
ject; because, though in our present mood we cannot easily 
enter into it, we are sensible that upon most occasions we should 
very heartily join in it. 

The same thing often happens with regard to all the other 
passions. A stranger passes by us in the street with all the marks 
of the deepest affliction; and we are immediately told that he has 
just received the news of the death of his father. It is impossible 
that, in this case, we should not approve of his grief. Yet it 
may often happen, without any defect of humanity on our part, 
that, so far from entering into the violence of his sorrow, we 
should scarce conceive the first movement of concern upon his 
account. Both he and his father, perhaps, are entirely unknown 
to us, or we happen to be employed about other things, and do 
not take time to picture out in our imagination the different 
circumstances of distress which must occur to him. We have 
learned, however, from experience, that such a misfortune natu- 
rally excites such a degree of sorrow, and we know that if we 
took time to consider his situation fully and in all its parts, we 
should, without doubt, most sincerely sympathize with him. It 
is upon the consciousness of this conditional sympathy, that our 
approbation of his sorrow is founded, even in those cases in 
which that sympathy does not actually take place; and the 
general rules derived from our preceding experience of what, 
upon most occasions, our sentiments would correspond with, 
correct the impropriety of our present emotions. 

The sentiment or affection of the heart from which any 


action proceeds, and upon which its whole virtue or vice must 
ultimately depend, may be considered under two different 
aspects, or in two different relations; first, in relation to the 
cause that excites it, or the motive that gives occasion to it; 
and secondly, in relation to the end that it proposes, or the 
effect that it tends to produce. 

In the suitableness or unsuitableness, in the proportion or 
disproportion which the affection seems to bear to the cause or 
object which excites it, consists the propriety or impropriety, 
the decency or ungracefulness of the consequent action. 

In the beneficial or hurtful nature of the effects which the 
affection aims at, or tends to produce, consists the merit or 
demerit of the action, the qualities by which it is entitled to re- 
ward, or is deserving of punishment. 

Philosophers have, of late years, considered chiefly the tend- 
ency of affections, and have given little attention to the relation 
which they stand in to the cause which excites them. In com- 
mon life, however, when we judge of any person's conduct, and 
of the sentiments which directed it, we constantly consider them 
under both these aspects. When we blame in another man the 
excesses of love, of grief, of resentment, we not only consider 
the ruinous effects which they tend to produce, but the little 
occasion which was given for them. The merit of his favourite, 
we say, is not so great, his misfortune is not so dreadful, his 
provocation is not so extraordinary, as to justify so violent a 
passion. We should have indulged, we say; perhaps, have ap- 
proved of the violence of his emotion, had the cause been in any 
respect proportioned to it. 

When we judge in this manner of any affection, as propor- 
tioned or disproportioned to the cause which excites it, it is 
scarce possible that we should make use of any other rule or 
canon but the correspondent affection in ourselves. If, upon 
bringing the case home to our own breast, we find that the senti- 
ments which it gives occasion to coincide and tally with our 
own, we necessarily approve of them as proportioned and suit- 
able to their objects: if otherwise, we necessarily disapprove of 
them, as extravagant and out of proportion. 

Every faculty in one man is the measure by which he judges 


of the like faculty in another. I judge of your sight by my sight, 
of your ear by my ear, of your reason by my reason, of your 
resentment by my resentment, of your love by my love. I neither 
have, nor can have, any other way of judging about them. 

We may judge of the propriety or impropriety of the senti- 
ments of another person by their correspondence or disagree- 
ment with our own, upon two different occasions; either, first, 
when the objects which excite them are considered without any 
peculiar relation, either to ourselves or to the person whose 
sentiments we judge of; or, secondly, when they are considered 
as peculiarly affecting one or other of us. 

1. With regard to those objects which are considered without 
any peculiar relation either to ourselves or to the person whose 
sentiments we judge of; wherever his sentiments entirely cor- 
respond with our own, we ascribe to him the qualities of taste 
and good judgment. The beauty of a plain, the greatness of a 
mountain, the ornaments of a building, the expression of a pic- 
ture, the composition of a discourse, the conduct of a third 
person, the proportions of different qualities and numbers, the 
various appearances which the great machine of the universe is 
perpetually exhibiting, with the secret wheels and springs which 
produce them; in a word, all the general subjects of science and 
taste, are what we and our companion regard, as having no 
peculiar relation to either of us. We both look at them from 
the same point of view, and we have no occasion for sympathy, 
or for that imaginary change of situations from which it arises, 
in order to produce, with regard to these the most perfect har- 
mony of sentiments and affections. If, notwithstanding, we are 
often differently affected, it arises either from the different de- 
grees of attention, which our different habits of life allow us 
to give easily to the several parts of those complex objects, or 
from the different degrees of natural acuteness in the faculty of 
the mind to which they are addressed. 

When the sentiments of our companion coincide with our 
own in things of this kind, which are obvious and easy, and in 
which, perhaps, we never found a single person who differed 
from us, though we, no doubt, must approve of them, yet he 
seems to deserve no praise or admiration on account of them. 


But when they not only coincide with our own, but lead and 
direct our own; when in forming them he appears to have at- 
tended to many things which we had overlooked, and to have 
adjusted them to all the various circumstances of their objects; 
we not only approve of them but wonder and are surprised at 
their uncommon and unexpected acuteness and comprehensive- 
ness, and he appears to deserve a very high degree of admiration 
and applause. For approbation heightened by wonder and sur- 
prise, constitutes the sentiment which is properly called admira- 
tion, and of which applause is the natural expression. The 
decision of the man who judges that exquisite beauty is prefer- 
able to the grossest deformity, or that twice two are equal to 
four, must certainly be approved of by all the world, but will 
not, surely, be much admired. It is the acute and delicate dis- 
cernment of the man of taste, who distinguishes the minute, and 
scarce perceptible differences of beauty and deformity; it is the 
comprehensive accuracy of the experienced mathematician, who 
unravels, with ease, the most intricate and perplexed propor- 
tions; it is the great leader in science and taste, the man who 
directs and conducts our own sentiments, the extent and superior 
justness of whose talents astonish us with wonder and surprise, 
who excites our admiration and seems to deserve our applause: 
and upon this foundation is grounded the greater part of the 
praise which is bestowed upon what are called the intellectual 

The utility of those qualities, it may be thought, is what first 
recommends them to us; and, no doubt, the consideration of this, 
when we come to attend to it, gives them a new value. Origin- 
ally, however, we approve of another man's judgment, not as 
something useful, but as right, as accurate, as agreeable to truth 
and reality: and it is evident we attribute those qualities to it 
for no other reason but because we find that it agrees with our 
own. Taste, in the same manner, is originally approved of, not 
as useful, but as just, as delicate, and as precisely suited to its 
object. The idea of the utility of all qualities of this kind, is 
plainly an after-thought, and not what first recommends them 
to our approbation. 

2. With regard to those objects, which affect in a particular 


manner either ourselves or the person whose sentiments we 
judge of, it is at once more difficult to preserve this harmony and 
correspondence, and at the same time, vastly more important. 
My companion does not naturally look upon the misfortune 
that has befallen me, or the injury that has been done me, from 
the same point of view in which I consider them. They affect 
me much more nearly. We do not view them from the same sta- 
tion, as we do a picture, or a poem, or a system of philosophy, 
and are, therefore, apt to be very differently affected by them. 
But I can much more easily overlook the want of this corres- 
pondence of sentiments with regard to such indifferent objects 
as concern neither me nor my companion, than with regard to 
what interests me so much as the misfortune that has befallen 
me, or the injury that has been done me. Though you despise 
that picture, or that poem, or even that system of philosophy, 
which I admire, there is little danger of our quarrelling upon 
that account. Neither of us can reasonably be much interested 
about them. They ought all of them to be matters of great 
indifference to us both; so that, though our opinions may be 
opposite, our affections may still be very nearly the same. But 
it is quite otherwise with regard to those objects by which 
either you or I are particularly affected. Though your judgments 
in matters of speculation, though your sentiments in matters 
of taste, are quite opposite to mine, I can easily overlook this 
opposition; and if I have any degree of temper, I may still 
find some entertainment in your conversation, even upon those 
very subjects. But if you have either no fellow-feeling for the 
misfortunes I have met with, or none that bears any proportion 
to the grief which distracts me; or if you have either no indig- 
nation at the injuries I have suffered, or none that bears any 
proportion to the resentment which transports me, we can no 
longer converse upon these subjects. We become intolerable to 
one another. I can neither support your company, nor you mine. 
You are confounded at my violence and passion, and I am en- 
raged at your cold insensibility and want of feeling. 

Tn all such cases, that there may be some correspondence of 
sentiments between the spectator and the person principally 



concerned, the spectator must, first of all endeavour, as much as 
he can, to put himself in the situation of the other, and to bring 
home to himself every little circumstance of distress which can 
possibly occur to the sufferer. He must adopt the whole case 
of his companion with all its minutest incidents; and strive to 
render, as perfect as possible, that imaginary change of situa- 
tion upon which his sympathy is founded. 

After all this, however, the emotions of the spectator will 
still be very apt to fall short of the violence of what is felt by 
the sufferer. Mankind, though naturally sympathetic, never con- 
ceive, for what has befallen another, that degree of passion 
which naturally animates the person principally concerned. That 
imaginary change of situation, upon which their sympathy is 
founded, is but momentary. The thought of their own safety, the 
thought that they themselves are not really the sufferers, con- 
tinually intrudes itself upon them; and though it does not hinder 
them from conceiving a passion somewhat analogous to what is 
felt by the sufferer, hinders them from conceiving any thing 
that approaches to the same degree of violence. The person con- 
cerned is sensible of this, and, at the same time, passionately 
desires a more complete sympathy. He longs for that relief 
which nothing can afford him but the entire concord of the 
affections of the spectators with his own. To see the emotions 
of their hearts, in every respect, beat time to his own, in the 
violent and disagreeable passions, constitutes his sole consola- 
tion. But he can only hope to obtain this by lowering his passion 
to that pitch, in which the spectators are capable of going along 
with him. He must flatten, if I may be allowed to say so, the 
sharpness of its natural tone, in order to reduce it to harmony 
and concord with the emotions of those who are about him. 
What they feel, will, indeed, always be, in some respects, differ- 
ent from what he feels, and compassion can never be exactly 
the same with original sorrow; because the secret consciousness 
that the change of situations, from which the sympathetic senti- 
ment arises, is but imaginary, not only lowers it in degree, but 
in some measure, varies it in kind, and gives it a quite different 
modification. These two sentiments, however, may, it is evident, 


have such a correspondence with one another, as is sufficient 
for the harmony of society. Though they will never be unisons, 
they may be concords, and this is all that is wanted or required. 

In order to produce this concord, as nature teaches the 
spectators to assume the circumstances of the person principally 
concerned, so she teaches this last in some measure to assume 
those of the spectators. As they are continually placing them- 
selves in his situation, and thence conceiving emotions similar 
to what he feels; so he is as constantly placing himself in theirs, 
and thence conceiving some degree of that coolness about his 
own fortune, with which he is sensible that they will view it. 
As they are constantly considering what they themselves would 
feel, if they actually were the sufferers, so he is as constantly 
led to imagine in what manner he would be affected if he was 
only one of the spectators of his own situation. As their sym- 
pathy makes them look at it, in some measure, with his eyes, 
so his sympathy makes him look at it, in some measure, with 
theirs, especially when in their presence and acting under their 
observation: and as the reflected passion, which he thus con- 
ceives, is much weaker than the original one, it necessarily 
abates the violence of what he felt before he came into their 
presence, before he began to recollect in what manner they 
would be affected by it, and to view his situation in this candid 
and impartial light. 

The mind, therefore, is rarely so disturbed but that the com- 
pany of a friend will restore it to some degree of tranquillity 
and sedateness. The breast is, in some measure, calmed and com- 
posed the moment we come into his presence. We are immedi- 
ately put in mind of the light in which he will view our 
situation, and we begin to view it ourselves in the same light; 
for the effect of sympathy is instantaneous. We expect less sym- 
pathy from a common acquaintance than from a friend: we 
cannot open to the former all those little circumstances which 
we can unfold to the latter: we assume, therefore, more tran- 
quillity before him, and endeavour to fix our thoughts upon 
those general outlines of our situation which he is willing to 
consider. We expect still less sympathy from an assembly of 


strangers, and we assume, therefore, still more tranquillity be- 
fore them, and always endeavour to bring down our passion to 
that pitch, which the particular company we are in may be 
expected to go along with. Nor is this merely an assumed ap- 
pearance: for if we are at all masters of ourselves, the presence 
of a mere acquaintance will really compose us, still more than 
that of a friend; and that of an assembly of strangers still more 
than that of a mere acquaintance. 

Society and conversation, therefore, are the most powerful 
remedies for restoring the mind to its tranquillity, if, at any 
time, it has unfortunately lost it; as well as the best preservatives 
of that equal and happy temper, which is so necessary to self- 
satisfaction and enjoyment. Men of retirement and speculation, 
who are apt to sit brooding at home over either grief or resent- 
ment, though they may often have more humanity, more gener- 
ositv, and a nicer sense of honour, yet seldom possess that 
equality of temper which is so common among men of the world. 

Of the Influence and Authority of the General 

Rules of Morality, and That They Are Justly 

Regarded as the Laws of the Deity 

By Adam Smith 

This selection is from Part III, Section III, of the first edition of Adam 
Smith's The Theory of Moral Sentiments (London: A. Millar, 
MDCCLIX), pp. 273-96. It deals with the sense of duty and the 
relation of the general moral laws regulating man's conduct to "the 
precepts that were prescribed to him bv the infinite goodness of his 

The regard to those general rules of conduct, is what is prop- 
erly called a sense of duty, a principle of the greatest conse- 
quence in human life, and the only principle by which the 


bulk of mankind are capable of directing their actions. Many 
men behave very decently, and through the whole of their lives 
avoid any considerable degree of blame, who yet, perhaps, never 
felt the sentiment upon the propriety of which we found our 
approbation of their conduct, but acted merely from a regard 
to what they saw were the established rules of behaviour. The 
man who has received great benefits from another person, may, 
by the natural coldness of his temper, feel but a very small de- 
gree of the sentiment of gratitude. If he has been virtuously 
educated, however, he will often have been made to observe 
how odious those actions appear which denote a want of this 
sentiment, and how amiable the contrary. Though his heart 
therefore is not warmed with any grateful affection, he will strive 
to act as if it was, and will endeavour to pay all those regards 
and attentions to his patron which the liveliest gratitude could 
suggest. He will visit him regularly; he will never talk of him 
but with expressions of the highest esteem, and of the many 
obligations which he owes to him. And what is more, he will 
cheerfully embrace every opportunity of making a proper re- 
turn for past services. He may do all this too without any 
hypocrisy or blamable dissimulation, without any selfish inten- 
tion of obtaining new favours, and without any design of impos- 
ing either upon his benefactor or the public. The motive of 
his actions may be no other than a reverence for the established 
rule of duty, a serious and earnest desire of acting, in every 
respect, according to the law of gratitude. A wife, in the same 
manner, may sometimes not feel that tender regard for her 
husband which is suitable to the relation that subsists between 
them. If she has been virtuously educated, however, she will 
endeavour to act as if she felt it, to be careful, officious, faithful, 
and sincere, and to be deficient in none of those attentions 
which the sentiment of conjugal affection could have prompted 
her to perform. Such a friend and such a wife, are neither of 
them, undoubtedly, the very best of their kinds; and though both 
of them may have the most serious and earnest desire to fulfil 
every part of their duty, yet they will fail in many nice and 
delicate regards, they will miss many opportunities of obliging, 


which they could never have overlooked if they had possessed 
the sentiment that is proper to their situation. Though not the 
very first of their kinds, however, they are perhaps the second; 
and if the regard to the general rules of conduct has been very 
strongly impressed upon them, neither of them will fail in any 
very essential part of their duty. None but those of the happiest 
mold are capable of suiting with exact justness, their senti- 
ments and behaviour to the smallest difference of situation, and 
of acting upon all occasions with the most delicate and accurate 
propriety. The coarse clay of which the bulk of mankind are 
formed, cannot be wrought up to such perfection. There is 
scarce any man, however, who by discipline, education, and 
example, may not be so impressed with a regard to general 
rules, as to act upon almost every occasion with tolerable 
decency, and through the whole of his life avoid any consider- 
able degree of blame. 

Without this sacred regard to general rules, there is no man 
whose conduct can be much depended upon. It is this which 
constitutes the most essential difference between a man of prin- 
ciple and honour and a worthless fellow. The one adheres, upon 
all occasions, steadily and resolutely to his maxims, and pre- 
serves through the whole of his life one even tenor of conduct. 
The other, acts variously and accidentally, as humour, inclina- 
tion, or interest chance to be uppermost. Nay, such are the 
inequalities of humour to which all men are subject, that with- 
out this principle, the man who, in all his cool hours, had the 
most delicate sensibility to the propriety of conduct, might often 
be led to act absurdly upon the most frivolous occasions, and 
when it was scarce possible to assign any serious motive for 
his behaving in this manner. Your friend makes you a visit when 
you happen to be in a humour which makes it disagreeable to 
receive him: in your present mood his civility is very apt to 
appear an impertinent intrusion; and if you were to give way 
to the views of things which at this time occur, though civil 
in your temper, you would behave to him with coldness and 
contempt. What renders you incapable of such a rudeness, is 
nothing but a regard to the general rules of civility and hospi- 


tality, which prohibit it. That habitual reverence which your 
former experience has taught you for these, enables you to act, 
upon all such occasions, with nearly equal propriety, and hinders 
those inequalities of temper, to which all men are subject, from 
influencing your conduct in any very sensible degree. But if 
without regard to these general rules, even the duties of polite- 
ness, which are so easily observed, and which one can scarce 
have any serious motive to violate, would yet be so frequently 
violated, what would become of the duties of justice, of truth, 
of chastity, of fidelity, which it is often so difficult to observe, 
and which there may be so many strong motives to violate? But 
upon the tolerable observance of these duties, depends the very 
existence of human society, which would crumble into nothing 
if mankind were not generally impressed with a reverence for 
those important rules of conduct. 

This reverence is still further enhanced by an opinion which 
is first impressed by nature, and afterwards confirmed by reason- 
ing and philosophy, that those important rules of morality, are 
the commands and laws of the Deity, who will finally reward 
the obedient, and punish the transgressors of their duty. 

This opinion or apprehension, I say, seems first to be im- 
pressed by nature. Men are naturally led to ascribe to those 
mysterious beings, whatever they are, which happen in any 
country, to be the object of religious fear, all their own senti- 
ments and passions. They have no other, they can conceive no 
other to ascribe to them. Those unknown intelligences which 
they imagine but see not, must necessarily be formed with some 
sort of resemblance to those intelligences of which they have 
experience. During the ignorance and darkness of pagan super- 
stition, mankind seems to have formed the ideas of their 
divinities with so little delicacy, that they ascribed to them, in- 
discriminately, all the passions of human nature, those not ex- 
cepted which do the least honour to our species, such as lust, 
hunger, avarice, envy, revenge. They could not fail, therefore, 
to ascribe to those beings, for the excellence of whose nature 
they still conceived the highest admiration, those sentiments 
and qualities which are the great ornaments of humanity, and 


which seem to raise it to a resemblance to divine perfection, the 
love of virtue and beneficence, and the abhorrence of vice and 
injustice. The man who was injured, called upon Jupiter to be 
witness of the wrong that was done to him, and could not doubt, 
but that divine being would behold it with the same indignation 
which would animate the meanest of mankind, who looked on 
when injustice was committed. The man who did the injury, 
felt himself to be the proper object of the detestation and resent- 
ment of mankind; and his natural fears led him to impute the 
same sentiments to those awful beings, whose presence he could 
not avoid, and whose power he could not resist. These natural 
hopes and fears, and suspicions, were propagated by sympathy, 
and confirmed by education; and the Gods were universally 
represented and believed to be the rewarders of humanity and 
mercy, and the avengers of perfidy and injustice. And thus 
religion, even in its rudest form, gave a sanction to the rules of 
morality, long before the age of artificial reasoning and philoso- 
phy. That the terrors of religion should thus enforce the natural 
sense of duty, was of too much importance to the happiness of 
mankind, for nature to leave it dependent upon the slowness and 
uncertainty of philosophical researches. 

These researches, however, when they came to take place, 
confirmed those original anticipations of nature. Upon whatever 
we suppose that our moral faculties are founded, whether upon 
a certain modification of reason, upon an original instinct, called 
a moral sense, or upon some other principle of our nature, it 
cannot be doubted, that they were given us for the direction 
of our conduct in this life. They carry along with them the 
most evident badges of this authority, which denote that they 
were set up within us to be the supreme arbiters of all our 
actions, to superintend all our senses, passions, and appetites, 
and to judge how far each of them was either to be indulged 
or restrained. Our moral faculties are by no means, as some 
have pretended, upon a level in this respect with the other 
faculties and appetites of our nature, endowed with no more 
right to restrain these last, than these last are to restrain them. 
No other faculty or principle of action judges of any other. Love 


does not judge of resentment, nor resentment of love. Those 
two passions may be opposite to one another, but cannot, with 
any propriety, be said to approve or disapprove of one another. 
But it is the peculiar office of those faculties now under our 
consideration to judge, to bestow censure or applause upon all 
the other principles of our nature. They may be considered as 
a sort of senses of which those principles are the objects. Every 
sense is supreme over its own objects. There is no appeal from 
the eye with regard to the beauty of colours, nor from the ear 
with regard to the harmony of sounds, nor from the taste with 
regard to the agreeableness of flavours. Each of those senses 
judges in the last resort of its own objects. Whatever gratifies 
the taste is sweet, whatever pleases the eye is beautiful, what- 
ever soothes the ear is harmonious. The very essence of each 
of those qualities consists in its being fitted to please the sense 
to which it is addressed. It belongs to our moral faculties, in the 
same manner to determine when the ear ought to be soothed, 
when the eye ought to be indulged, when the taste ought to be 
gratified, when and how far every other principle of our nature 
ought either to be indulged or restrained. What is agreeable 
to our moral faculties, is fit and right, and proper to be done; 
the contrary, wrong, unfit and improper. The sentiments which 
they approve of, are graceful and becoming: the contrary, un- 
graceful and unbecoming. The very words right and wrong, fit, 
improper, graceful, unbecoming, mean only what pleases or 
displeases those faculties. 

Since these, therefore, were plainly intended to be the gov- 
erning principles of human nature, the rules which they pre- 
scribe, are to be regarded as the commands and laws of the 
Deity, promulgated by those vicegerents which he has thus set 
up within us. All general rules are commonly denominated laws: 
thus the general rules which bodies observe in the communica- 
tion of motion, are called the laws of motion. But those general 
rules which our moral faculties observe in approving or con- 
demning whatever sentiment or action is subjected to their 
examination, may much more justly be denominated such. They 
have a much greater resemblance to what are properly called 


laws, those general rules which the sovereign lays down to direct 
the conduct of his subjects. Like them they are rules to direct 
the free actions of men; they are prescribed most surely by a 
lawful superior, and are attended too with the sanction of 
rewards and punishments. Those vicegerents of God within us, 
never fail to punish the violation of them, by the torments of 
inward shame, and self-condemnation; and on the contrary al- 
ways reward obedience with tranquility of mind, with content- 
ment, and self-satisfaction. 

There are innumerable other considerations which serve to 
confirm the same conclusion. The happiness of mankind, as well 
as of all other rational creatures, seems to have been the original 
purpose intended by the Author of Nature, when he brought 
them into existence. No other end seems worthy of that supreme 
wisdom and divine benignity which we necessarily ascribe to 
him; and this opinion, which we are led to by the abstract con- 
sideration of his infinite perfections, is still more confirmed by 
the examination of the works of nature, which seem all intended 
to promote happiness, and to guard against misery. But by 
acting according to the dictates of our moral faculties, we neces- 
sarily pursue the most effectual means for promoting the happi- 
ness of mankind, and may therefore be said, in some sense, to 
co-operate with the Deity, and to advance as far as in our 
power the plan of Providence. By acting otherways, on the 
contrary, we seem to obstruct, in some measure, the scheme 
which the Author of Nature has established for the happiness 
and perfection of the world, and to declare ourselves, if I may 
say so, in some measure the enemies of God. Hence we are 
naturally encouraged to hope for his extraordinary favour and 
reward in the one case, and to dread his vengeance and punish- 
ment in the other. 

There are besides many other reasons, and many other nat- 
ural principles, which all tend to confirm and inculcate the same 
salutary doctrine. If we consider the general rules by which 
external prosperity and adversity are commonly distributed in 
this life, we shall find, that notwithstanding the disorder in 
which all things appear to be in this world, yet even here 


every virtue naturally meets with its proper reward, with the 
recompense which is most fit to encourage and promote it; and 
this too so surely, that it requires a very extraordinary con- 
currence of circumstances entirely to disappoint it. What is the 
reward most proper for encouraging industry, prudence, and cir- 
cumspection? Success in every sort of business. And is it possible 
that in the whole of life these virtues should fail of attaining it? 
Wealth and external honours are their proper recompense, and 
the recompense which they can seldom fail of acquiring. What 
reward is most proper for promoting the practice of truth, jus- 
tice, and humanity? The confidence, the esteem, and love of 
those we live with. Humanity does not desire to be great, but 
to be beloved. It is not in being rich that truth and justice would 
rejoice, but in being trusted and believed, recompenses which 
those virtues must almost always acquire. By some very extra- 
ordinary and unlucky circumstance, a good man may come to be 
suspected of a crime of which he was altogether incapable, 
and upon that account be most unjustly exposed for the remain- 
ing part of his life to the horror and aversion of mankind. By an 
accident of this kind he may be said to lose his all, notwith- 
standing his integrity and justice; in the same manner as a 
cautious man, notwithstanding his utmost circumspection, may 
be ruined by an earthquake or an inundation. Accidents of the 
first kind, however, are perhaps still more rare, and still more 
contrary to the common course of things than those of the 
second; and it still remains true, that the practice of truth, jus- 
tice, and humanity, is a certain and almost infallible method of 
acquiring what those virtues chiefly aim at, the confidence and 
love of those we live with. A person may be very easily mis- 
represented with regard to a particular action; but it is scarce 
possible that he should be so with regard to the general tenor 
of his conduct. An innocent man may be believed to have done 
wrong: this, however, will rarely happen. On the contrary, the 
established opinion of the innocence of his manners, will often 
lead us to absolve him where he has really been in the fault, 
notwithstanding very strong presumptions. A knave, in the same 
manner may escape censure, or even meet with applause, for a 


particular knavery, in which his conduct is not understood. But 
no man was ever habitually such, without being almost univer- 
sally known to be so, and without being even frequently sus- 
pected of guilt, when he was in reality perfectly innocent. And 
so far as vice and virtue can be either punished or rewarded 
by the sentiments and opinions of mankind, they both, according 
to the common course of tilings, meet even here with something 
more than exact and impartial justice. 

But though the general rules by which prosperity and adver- 
sity are commonly distributed, when considered in this cool 
and philosophical light, appear to be perfectly suited to the 
situation of mankind in this life, yet they are by no means suited 
to some of our natural sentiments. Our natural love and admira- 
tion for some virtues is such, that we should wish to bestow on 
them all sorts of honours and rewards, even those which we 
must acknowledge to be the proper recompenses of other qual- 
ities with which those virtues are not always accompanied. Our 
detestation, on the contrary, for some vices is such, that we 
should desire to heap upon them every sort of disgrace and dis- 
aster, those not excepted which are the natural consequences of 
very different qualities. Magnanimity, generosity, and justice 
command so high a degree of admiration, that we desire to see 
them crowned with wealth, and power, and honours of every 
kind, the natural consequences of prudence, industry, and appli- 
cation; qualities with which those virtues are not inseparably 
connected. Fraud, falsehood, brutality, and violence, on the 
other hand excite in every human breast such scorn and abhor- 
rence, that our indignation rouses to see them possess those 
advantages which they may in some sense be said to have mer- 
ited, by the diligence and industry with which they are some- 
times attended. The industrious knave cultivates the soil; the 
indolent good man leaves it uncultivated. Who ought to reap 
the harvest? Who starve, and who live in plenty? The natural 
course of things decides it in favor of the knave: the natural 
sentiments of mankind in favour of the man of virtue. Man 
judges, that the good qualities of the one are greatly over-recom- 
pensed by those advantages which they tend to procure him, 


and that the omissions of the other are by far too severely pun- 
ished by the distress which they naturally bring upon him; and 
human laws, the consequences of human sentiments, forfeit the 
life and the estate of the industrious and cautious traitor, and 
reward, by extraordinary recompenses, the fidelity and public 
spirit of the improvident and careless good citizen. Thus man 
is by nature directed to correct, in some measure, that distri- 
bution of things which she herself would otherwise have made. 
The rules which for this purpose she prompts him to follow, 
are different from those which she herself observes. She bestows 
upon every virtue, and upon every vice, that precise reward or 
punishment which is best fitted to encourage the one, or to 
restrain the other. She is directed by this sole consideration, and 
pays little regard to the different degrees of merit or demerit, 
which they may seem to possess in the sentiments and passions 
of man. Man, on the contrary, pays regard to this only, and 
would endeavour to render the state of every virtue precisely 
proportioned to that degree of love and esteem, and of every 
vice to that degree of contempt and abhorrence which he him- 
self conceives for it. The rules which she follows are fit for 
her, those which he follows for him. But both are calculated to 
promote the same great end, the order of the world, and the 
perfection and happiness of human nature. 

But though man is thus employed to alter that distribution 
of things which natural events would make, if left to them- 
selves; though like the Gods of the poets, he is perpetually 
interposing, by extraordinary means, in favour of virtue, and in 
opposition to vice, and like them, endeavours to turn away the 
arrow that is aimed at the head of the righteous, but accel- 
erates the sword of destruction that is lifted up against the 
wicked; yet he is by no means able to render the fortune of 
either quite suitable to his own sentiments and wishes. The 
natural course of things cannot be entirely controlled by the 
impotent endeavours of man: the current is too rapid and too 
strong for him to stop it; and though the rules which direct 
it appear to have been established for the wisest and best pur- 
poses, they sometimes produce effects which shock all his nat- 


ural sentiments. That a great combination of men, should 
prevail over a small one; that those who engage in an enter- 
prise with forethought and all necessary preparation, should 
prevail over such as oppose them without an end; and that every 
end should be acquired by those means only which nature has 
established for acquiring it, seems to be a rule not only neces- 
sary and unavoidable in itself, but even useful and proper for 
rousing the industry and attention of mankind. Yet, when in 
consequence of this rule, violence and artifice prevail over sin- 
cerity and justice, what indignation does it not excite in the 
breast of every human spectator? What sorrow and compassion 
for the sufferings of the innocent, and what furious resentment 
against the success of the oppressor? We are equally grieved 
and enraged, at the wrong that is done, but often find it alto- 
gether out of our power to redress it. When we thus despair 
of finding any force upon earth which can check the triumph 
of injustice, we naturally appeal to heaven, and hope, that the 
great author of our nature will himself execute hereafter, what 
all the principles which he has given us, for the direction of 
our conduct, prompt us to attempt even here; that he will com- 
plete the plan which he himself has thus taught us to begin; and 
will, in a life to come, render to every one according to the 
works which he had performed in this world. And thus we are 
led to the belief of a future state, not only by the weaknesses, 
by the hopes and fears of human nature, but by the noblest 
and best principles which belong to it, by the love of virtue, and 
by the abhorrence of vice and injustice. 

"Does it suit the greatness of God," says the eloquent and 
philosophical bishop of Clermont, with that passionate and 
exaggerating force of imagination, which seems sometimes to 
exceed the bounds of decorum; "does it suit the greatness of 
God, to leave the world which he has created in so universal 
a disorder? To see the wicked prevail almost always over the 
just; the innocent dethroned by the usurper; the father become 
the victim of the ambition of an unnatural son; the husband 
expiring under the stroke of a barbarous and faithless wife? 
From the height of his greatness ought God to behold those 


melancholy events as a fantastical amusement, without taking 
any share in them? Because he is great, should he be weak, or 
unjust, or barbarous? Because men are little, ought they to be 
allowed either to be dissolute without punishment, or virtuous 
without reward? O God! if this is the character of your Supreme 
Being; if it is you whom we adore under such dreadful ideas; 
can I any longer acknowledge you for my father, for my pro- 
tector, for the comforter of my sorrow, the support of my weak- 
ness, the rewarder of my fidelity? You would then be no more 
but an indolent and fantastical tyrant, who sacrifices mankind 
to his insolent vanity, and who has brought them out of nothing, 
only to make them serve for the sport of his leisure, and of his 

When the general rules which determine the merit and de- 
merit of actions, come thus to be regarded, as the laws of an 
All-powerful Being, who watches over our conduct, and who, 
in a life to come, will reward the observance, and punish the 
breach of them; they necessarily acquire a new sacredness from 
this consideration. That our regard to the will of the Deity, 
ought to be the supreme rule of our conduct, can be doubted 
of by nobody who believes his existence. The very thought of 
disobedience appears to involve in it the most shocking impro- 
priety. How vain, how absurd would it be for man, either to 
oppose or to neglect the commands that were laid upon him 
by Infinite Wisdom, and Infinite Power! How unnatural, how 
impiously ungrateful not to reverence the precepts that were 
prescribed to him by the infinite goodness of his Creator, even 
though no punishment was to follow their violation. The sense 
of propriety too is here well supported by the strongest motives 
of self-interest. The idea that, however, we may escape the 
observation of man, or be placed above the reach of human 
punishment, yet we are always acting under the eye, and 
exposed to the punishment of God, the great avenger of injus- 
tice, is a motive capable of restraining the most headstrong 
passions, with those at least who, by constant reflection, have 
rendered it familiar to them. 

It is in this manner that religion enforces the natural sense 


of duty: and hence it is, that mankind are generally disposed 
to place great confidence in the probity of those who seem 
deeply impressed with religious sentiments. Such persons, they 
imagine, act under an additional tie, besides those which regu- 
late the conduct of other men. The regard to the propriety of 
action as well as to reputation, the regard to the applause of 
his own breast, as well as to that of others, are motives which 
they suppose have the same influence over the religious man, 
as over the man of the world. But the former lies under another 
restraint, and never acts deliberately but as in the presence of 
that Great Superior who is finally to recompense him according 
to his deeds. A greater truth is reposed, upon this account, in 
the regularity and exactness of his conduct. And wherever the 
natural principles of religion are not corrupted by the factious 
and party zeal of some worthless cabal; wherever the first duty 
which it requires, is to fulfil all the obligations of morality; 
wherever men are not taught to regard frivolous observances, 
as more immediate duties of religion, than acts of justice and 
beneficence; and to imagine, that by sacrifices and ceremonies, 
and vain supplications, they can bargain with the Deity for 
fraud, and perfidy, and violence, the world undoubtedly judges 
right in this respect, and justly places a double confidence in the 
rectitude of the religious man's behaviour. 


Thomas Reid 


The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

Thomas Reid, D.D., 1710-1796, was a native of Strachan, Scot- 
land; student and subsequently Librarian of Marischal College, 
Aberdeen, in 1737; Pastor of New Machar, 1752; Professor of 
King's College, Aberdeen, in 1763; Professor of Moral Philosophy 
in the University of Glasgow, as successor of Adam Smith, from 
which he retired in 1787. 

Dr. Reid was effectually aroused to philosophical activity, 
as Kant was somewhat later, by the speculations of Berkeley and 
Hume. Both had assumed and carried to their logical conclu- 
sions the scholastic doctrine of Representative Perception, or 
perception by means of intermediate ideas, so far as it was 
sanctioned by Locke, and Locke's definition of Knowledge, as 
the agreement of two ideas with one another, or an idea with 
its object. 

Berkeley had shown that these assumptions involved the re- 
duction of matter to ideas, and the universe of matter to a 
universe of ideas, permanently existing in the divine mind, and 
occasionally discerned by the finite mind. Hume had as log- 
ically concluded that the mind itself is no more than a bundle 
of ideas, and its phenomena are but a series of impressions. 

Besides reducing matter to sensations and mind or spirit to 
ideas, Hume had resolved the connections between both into 
custom or subjective habits or experience. Custom he had ex- 
plained by association. He had also formally called in question 



the universality of the relation of causation by making it de- 
pendent solely on experience, and had denied impliedly its 
necessity a priori. He had challenged the customary methods of 
reasonina to the existence and attributes of God from the evi- 
dences of design in the universe. He had also formally called 
in question the trustworthiness of all philosophical speculations 
whatever, by arguments in support of philosophical skepticism 
as the only possible position which reason could accept. Singu- 
larly enough he had used positive arguments against the trust- 
worthiness of the Christian miracles and the credibility of the 
Christian history, which were founded on the very doctrine of 
causation which he had resolved into customary associations, 
and on the experience which his philosophical skepticism would 
compel him to distrust. 

Reid was first aroused by these apparently legitimate con- 
clusions from the received philosophy to reconsider the funda- 
mental principles from which they were derived. 

Against the special principles and inferences of Berkeley and 
Hume, and against the pronounced skepticism of Hume, he 
protested in the name of Common Sense. Many of the argu- 
ments of both he subjected to a critical revision. His conception 
of common sense was indefinite and inconsistently conceived, 
and his criticisms were applied with unequal acuteness and 
varied success. Common sense was at one time conceived and 
appealed to as the power of knowledge in general, as it is pos- 
sessed and employed by a man of ordinary development and 
opportunities. At another it was treated as the Faculty of Rea- 
son—or the Source of Principles, the Light of Nature, etc. Per- 
ception was at one time defined as the power to know the 
external world and its relations, on occasion of some of the 
bodily senses; at another it was resolved into the capacity to 
suggest (following in this the language of Berkeley and Hutche- 
son) an existing world of matter as the cause of some or all of 
these sensations. Reid's analysis of the processes of sensation is, 
however, sometimes very acute, and his Inquiry into the Human 
Mind is a valuable contribution to this much vexed subject. He 
successfully exposed the groundlessness, inconsistency and con- 


tradictions of the ancient and modern theories of representative 
perception. He contended that the mind is active in sense-per- 
ception—that every act of sense-perception is an act of judgment. 
In his later writings, he attempted a more accurate statement 
of the nature of common sense, and its functions in philosophical 
speculation, as Buffier in his Premieres Verites had done before 
him, and not a few other philosophers— making common sense a 
capacity for certain original and intuitive judgments which may 
be used as the foundations of deductive reasoning. These first 
principles he divided into the two classes of contingent and 
necessary truths. He cited twelve examples of the first, and 
divided the latter into grammatical, logical, mathematical, aes- 
thetical, ethical, and metaphysical. Of the last he made three— 
the principle of inherence, of causation, and design. He also 
asserted that the freedom of the will and the consequent respon- 
sibility of the individual soul are discerned by intuition. . . . 

The first published work of Reid's was the brief "Essay on 
Quantity," 1748, in the Transactions of the Royal Society of 
London. It was designed as a Protest against the application of 
mathematical relations to ethical conceptions, such as had been 
made by Hutcheson in his Ethical Treatises, as the ground of 
determining the excellence and merit of a virtuous action. It 
consists of a brief statement of the kind of objects to which 
mathematical relations are applicable. Mathematics is defined 
as the science of measure. It is applicable to Quantity, or that 
which is measurable. Quantity is subdivided into the proper 
and the improper. Proper Quantity is that which is measured 
by its own kind. Improper is that which cannot be measured 
by its kind. Proper Quantity is of four species: Extension, Dur- 
ation, Number and Proportion. Improper Quantity includes Ve- 
locity, Quantity of Motion, Density, Elasticity, vis insita et im- 
pressa, centripetal forces of all kinds, and the different orders 
of fluxions. Every kind of improper Quantity which is admitted 
into mathematics must first admit of degrees of greater and less, 
and second, must be associated with or related to something 
which has proper quantity, so that the one must be increased 
and diminished with the other. It follows that intellectual and 


moral activities, not being capable of being thus associated, or of 
being associated with that which is measurable, do not admit 
the relations of quantity. 

The Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Com- 
mon Sense was published in 1763. It was designed, as appears 
from the dedication, to set aside the hypothesis that nothing 
is perceived but what is in the mind which perceives it, with 
the inference that we do not perceive things that are external, 
but only certain images of them imprinted upon the mind, 
which are called impressions and ideas. The introduction treats 
(1) of the importance of the subject and the means of prose- 
cuting it; (2) of the impediments to our knowledge of the mind; 
(3) of the present state of this part of philosophy, etc., in which 
Reid ascribes the skepticism of the times to the ideal system 
of Descartes. He proceeds to the analysis of the special sen- 
sations, beginning with smell, which he finds to be a pure 
subjective sensation, not involving the relations of figure or 
extension, and only known as proceeding from some cause other 
than the subject of it. In this connection he explains the differ- 
ence between a sensation, and the remembrance and imagination 
of an object; the one being a knowledge of the present existence 
of a real object; the second, of its past existence; and the third, 
a simple apprehension of it without belief. He next interposes 
the position that judgment or belief may occur without a pre- 
ceding simple apprehension, in this dissenting from Locke's 
definition of knowledge as an agreement between ideas. He 
next attacks the doctrine of Hume that there can be a sensa- 
tion without a sentient. He adds that the conception or belief 
of a sentient being is suggested by our constitution as one of 
the axioms of common sense— a doctrine which had been in a 
sense already taught by Berkeley and Hutcheson, though not 
in the same application which Reid makes of it when he says, 
that it is a power "to which we owe many of our simple notions, 
as well as many original principles of belief." He next discusses 
the point whether the mind is active or only passive in sensa- 
tion, and insists that it is active, as against the learned philos- 
ophers. In discussing Touch, he returns again to his doctrine of 


suggestion, under the head natural signs, and distinguishes the 
quality as of hardness in the body from the corresponding sen- 
sation by making the one to be interpreted or suggested by the 
other as its natural sign. In the same way extension is suggested 
by most of the tactual sensations; and the reality of the externa] 
world is made known to the mind as a first principle of common 
sense. In discussing vision, he contends that color is not the 
name of a sensation, but of a secondary quality, and proceeds 
to argue, as against Locke, that none of our sensations are 
resemblances of the qualities of bodies. Following Berkeley, 
Reid distinguishes visible figure and extension from tangible 
figure and extension, and presents an ingenious discussion of 
what he calls the geometry of visibles, i.e., a system of geometry 
such as might be constructed by the eye only if it were unaided 
by touch. After a careful statement of the physiological con- 
ditions of vision as known in his time, he proceeds to distinguish 
sensation from perception, describing the one as a state of feel- 
ing and the other as an act of knowing, and distinguishing 
perception as original and acquired, the first being determined 
by the constitution or capacity of man, and the second being 
an act of judgment by signs. He proceeds next to trace the 
analogy between our confidence in the operations of the two 
kinds of perception and our confidence in human testimony, 
there being an original tendency or necessity to an enlargement 
and improvement by experience. It is worthy of notice that he 
introduces here another principle of common sense as neces- 
sary to the acquired perceptions of natural powers, viz.: a con- 
fidence in the honesty of nature analogous to a similar 
confidence in the testimony of men, called by Reid "the induc- 
tive principle." 

In 1774 Dr. Reid published, in the appendix to Lord Karnes' 
Sketches of Man, a brief account of Aristotle's Logic. It was 
designed to abate what the author conceived to be an excessive 
estimate of the logical process as a source of knowledge, and to 
emphasize the importance of other sources of knowledge. It 
contains many superficial and incorrect representations of Aris- 
totle's real opinions, although it rendered an important service 


at the time when it was originally composed. It has been sub- 
jected to philosophical and critical annotations by the eminent 
Aristotelian Sir William Hamilton, in his edition of Reid's works. 
The Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, published in 
1785, contains the substance of the lectures which Reid had 
delivered for more than twenty years. We find in them sub- 
stantially the same principles which were more briefly stated 
in the Inquiry. The Preliminary Chapter in Essay I contains a 
series of definitions or explanations of terms which give a tran- 
script of the philosophical views which were held in his time. 
Chapter II gives the principles taken for granted. These are 
the existence of a subject of psychical operations— the existence 
of any present psychical state of which we are conscious— the 
agency of attention— the identity of the subject of our mental 
states— the reality of inherence or the relation of substance and 
attribute— the distinction of subject and object in mental opera- 
tions—the truth of those principles in which there is common 
agreement of competent judges in all generations— the trustwor- 
thiness of the faculties of sane men. Chapter VII treats of the di- 
vision of the Powers of the Mind. Reid follows the prevalent 
twofold division into powers of the understanding, and powers of 
the will. He criticizes and sets aside the division in books of logic 
of the intellectual powers into simple apprehension, judgment 
and reasoning, and proposes, as an incomplete division, the Pow- 
ers we have by the External Senses— Memory— Conception- 
Abstraction— Judgment— Reasoning— Taste— Moral Perception and 
Consciousness. To these he subjoins the Social operations of 
the mind. In treating of the External Senses, he sharply distin- 
guishes the impressions on the brain and nerve from the per- 
ceptions of which they are the condition— more sharply than 
from the sensations; he analyzes the act of perception into the 
attaining or having a notion of the object, and an irresistible 
belief of its present existence, which is also independent of 
reasoning, i.e., is immediate. After an extended statement and 
criticism of the theories of representative perception he treats 
of sensations in chapter XVI, asserting that sensations and per- 
ceptions are known by the same names, and yet are distinguish- 


able in thought. The sensations are confined to the soul, are 
painful, pleasant, or indifferent, and are distinguishable from 
the desires. In this analysis, however, sensations are confounded 
by Reid with emotions. The primary and secondary qualities are 
distinguished thus: of the first we have a direct notion, of the 
second a relative and obscure notion. Neither the primary nor 
the secondary resemble any sensation, as Locke asserted of the 
primary qualities. Passing next to matter, he teaches that the 
existence of a material substance, in addition to the sensible 
qualities, is directly discerned by the mind, though its relation 
to its qualities can only be obscurely apprehended. The infinite 
divisibility of matter must also be received as an axiom, and 
there are other axioms concerning its relation to space which 
cannot be perceived by the senses. Space and its relations, with 
the axioms concerning its existence and its relations, are known 
directly in connection with the senses of touch and sight, but 
not as objects of these senses. Returning to the evidence of 
sense, and the belief which rests upon it, he distinguishes it 
from the evidence of reasoning and from the evidence of what 
are technically called axioms, though it is analogous to the latter. 

The senses can be improved in respect to the acuteness of the 
sensations and the range and variety of the perceptions. The 
sensations as such are not fallacious, but only the acquired 
perceptions and other conclusions arising from rashness, or ig- 
norance of the laws of nature. 

Memory Reid treats as an original faculty, which involves a 
belief of past duration and an immediate knowledge of the 
actual existence of objects in the past. The knowledge of limited 
duration involves the belief of a duration which is unlimited, 
just as limited extension involves unlimited space. Both time 
and space are objects sui generis. They are not things, but rather 
receptacles of things, without which these could not possibly 
have existed. Memory involves a belief of past identity as well 
as of past duration, and identity is known directly. Identity has 
different senses as applied to different objects. The discussion 
of time, space, etc., introduces an extended criticism of Locke's 
account of the origin of these notions by means of sensation and 


reflection, in which Reid implies that he considers these two 
sources of knowledge, as they are defined by Mr. Locke, to 
be inadequate. 

Conception, Reid calls also simple apprehension, in this con- 
founding the representation of individual and general ideas or 
notions, and this confusion runs through the entire discussion 
of the subject. Our conceptions are of three kinds: of individual 
things, of the meaning of general words and the creations of 
our own imagination. The term imagination, when distinguished 
from conception, he limits to mental pictures of visible objects. 
The relation of conceptions to their originals leads Reid to dis- 
cuss again the falseness of the theory of representative ideas. A 
chapter on mistakes concerning conception strikingly illustrates 
the confused and equivocal senses in which the author uses the 
term. The power and laws of association he adverts to under 
the title of the train of thoughts in the mind, but professes to 
add nothing to what Hume and Lord Kames had written, to 
whom he refers for a full exposition of the subject. 

In Essay V, "Of Abstraction," Reid treats first of General 
Words, in which he notices and explains their extension and 
comprehension and the relation of the one to the other. He 
next discusses general conceptions, and shows that such are 
possible of the attributes of things and the genera and species 
of things. In treating Chapter III, "Of Abstraction and Generali- 
zation/' he observes that the general conceptions which are 
formed by compounding objects do not become simple by 
blending their constituents into one. In other words, the com- 
pounds of nature and those formed by the mind are strikingly 
contrasted. In the formation and application of these universals 
we impliedly assume the orderly procedure and arrangement of 
nature. Of the nature of universals, as discussed by Nominalists, 
Conceptualists, and Realists, Reid expresses the following opin- 
ion: Universals have no real existence except in the mind. They 
are not objects of the imagination proper. Locke, who represents 
the Conceptualists, and Rerkeley and Hume, who represent the 
Nominalists, divide the truth between themselves. 

"Of Judgment," in Essay VI, Reid's doctrine is summed in 


the three propositions: (1) It is an act specifically distinct from 
simple apprehension. (2) There are notions which should be 
referred to the faculty of judgment as their source, as those of 
affirmation, negation, truth, falsehood, knowledge and belief, 
indeed of relations of every kind. (3) In mature persons, judg- 
ment accompanies sensation, consciousness and memory; as also 
in the formation of abstract and general conceptions. Judgment, 
so far from supposing simple apprehension or ideas as the 
material with which it operates, is necessary to provide ideas 
and simple apprehensions. This is true of the natural judgments 
of sensations, and consciousness, as well as of the relations which 
are involved in the act of judgment itself. That common sense 
is a particular description of judgment is obvious from the use 
of the term by many writers. It follows from this corrected 
conception of the nature of judgment, that all knowledge is not 
limited to the agreement or disagreement of ideas. Immediate 
knowledge cannot be thus defined. Some judgments are, in the 
proper sense of the word, intuitions. Such are termed axioms, 
first principles, principles of common-sense, self-evident truths. 
All knowledge obtained by reasoning must be built upon first 
principles. Some of these are certain, others are probable only. 
It is important and practicable to determine these principles— 
for, first, every man is a competent judge of them; second, 
opinions which contradict first principles are not merely false, 
they are also absurd. The consent of men of all ages and con- 
ditions is of great authority in establishing them. Opinions that 
appear very early and are absolutely necessary in the conduct 
of life are to be received as first principles. These first principles 
are of two classes: the first principles of contingent truths, and 
the first principles of necessary truths. Reid enumerates twelve 
of the first class, viz.: Everything exists of which we are con- 
scious. The thoughts of which I am conscious are the thoughts 
of a being called myself, etc. The things which I remember did 
really happen. We may be certain of our identity as far as we 
remember. The things which we perceive exist, and are what 
we perceive them to be. We have some power over our actions 
and the determinations of our wills. The natural faculties by 


which we discriminate truth from error are not fallacious. There 
is life and intelligence in our fellow-men. Certain features and 
gestures indicate certain thoughts and dispositions of the mind. 
Human testimony naturally awakens confidence. In respect to 
events depending on human volition, there is a self-evident prob- 
ability, greater or less. In the phenomena of nature, what is to be 
will probably be like to what has been in similar circumstances. 
Necessary truths are grammatical, logical, mathematical, maxims 
of taste, first principles of morals and metaphysical truths. Of 
the last, three are conspicuous. (1) The qualities which we per- 
ceive belong to a subject which we call body; those of which 
we are conscious belong to a subject which we call mind. (2) 
Whatever begins to exist must have a cause which produced it. 
(3) Design and intelligence in the cause may be inferred with 
certainty from the marks or signs of it in the effect. Next follows 
a brief statement of criticism of the received doctrines in respect 
to first principles; also a chapter on prejudices and the causes of 

Essay VII is "Of Reasoning," which is allied to judgment and 
is divided into probable and demonstrative, the first being lim- 
ited to truths which are probable, and the second, to those 
which are necessary. So far as in morality there are truths 
which are necessary or intuitive, so far is morality capable of 
demonstration. The skeptical distrust of Reason can only apply 
to Reasoning, but the belief in first principles is not an act of 
the reasoning power. Hume is in error in asserting that our 
reasonings of causes and effects are derived from custom, and 
are acts of the sensitive rather than the cogitative part of our 

"Of Taste," Essay VIII, Reid's doctrine is that, like one of 
the senses, it is founded on an internal capacity to be pleased 
or displeased, coupled with the power of judgment. The qual- 
ities in objects which affect this sensibility are grouped under 
novelty, grandeur and beauty. Each of these are illustrated at 

The "Essays on the Active Powers of Man" commence with 
an essay on Active Power in general. The conception of power, 


like other original conceptions, cannot be defined, but we may 
assert that power is not an object of sense or consciousness, as 
Locke contends and Hume denies. We have only a relative no- 
tion of it. It requires a subject in which it inheres. Power may 
exist and not be exerted. The notion of power has no contrary. 
After criticizing Locke's and Hume's explanation of the notion 
and of our belief in it, Reid contends that power probably 
belongs only to beings possessed of understanding and will; all 
that the science of nature investigates is the laws of nature. The 
powers of man are limited. 

The will is appropriate to the power and act of determining. 
It should be distinguished from the sensations, affections and 
desires. Every act of will must have an object. It must concern 
itself immediately with some act of a man's own, believed to 
be within our power. The will affects the acts of the under- 
standing in Attention, Deliberation, and Resolution or Purpose. 
Some acts of will are transient and others permanent. Nothing 
is virtuous or immoral which is not voluntary. Virtue in habit 
consists in the purpose. 

Principles of action are whatever excites to action. They are 
threefold: mechanical, animal and rational. The mechanical prin- 
ciples are twofold: instincts and habits. Besides the commonly 
accepted instincts there are instincts of belief, as in testimony, 
and the uniformity of laws of nature. Habit is a facility acquired 
by repetition. The animal principles are the appetites which are 
corporeal in their occasion and are neither social nor selfish— 
the desires, of which there are three: the desire of esteem, of 
power and of knowledge, all which are social; the benevolent 
affections, general and special, the last comprising the domestic, 
the grateful, the pitiful, the respectful, the friendly and the sex- 
ual, and public spirit. Of the malevolent affections, there are 
two: emulation and resentment. All these become passions when 
excessively excited. Disposition describes a permanent subjective 
tendency to the excitement of certain of these principles. 

The Rational Principles of action are such as imply judgment. 
There are two: a regard for our good upon the whole, and a 
regard to duty. The last of these is grounded on the possession 


of an original power of the mind, which we call the Moral 
Faculty, by which we distinguish actions as right and wrong, 
and discern the First Principles of Morals, attendant upon which 
are the feelings of moral approbation and disapprobation. Con- 
science comes into maturity by gradual growth. It is peculiar 
to man; it is intended as a guide; it is both an active and an 
intellectual power. 

The liberty of a moral agent is a power over the determina- 
tions of the will. It supposes some practical judgment or Reason. 
Necessity is the want of such moral liberty. Liberty is used in 
three senses: (1) of confinement of the body; (2) of obligation 
from law; (3) as opposed to necessity as defined. This is con- 
ceivable because every man knows that he possesses it. The 
words cause and effect, action and active power, are used in 
more than one meaning, and hence are used ambiguously when 
applied to material and spiritual agents. 

Necessity is not proved by the influence of motives, unless 
it can be proved that the existence of motives compels to a 
particular determination. The arguments for the fact of Liberty 
are: (1) We are naturally convinced that we act freely. (2) 
The fact of moral responsibility implies it. (3) Liberty is essen- 
tial to the deliberate choice and execution of plans that are 
deliberately chosen. Against Liberty it is urged (A) that liberty 
of determination is impossible because, (1) there must be a 
sufficient reason for every existence and every event; and (2) 
because it would imply that an event may occur without a 
cause. (B) It would be hurtful to man. (C) Man has no such 
liberty, because every human action is foreseen. But the fore- 
knowledge of God does not involve necessity. It should be 
granted that foreknowledge of contingent events is impossible 
for man, but it is not for this reason impossible for God. On the 
other hand, upon the scheme of necessity God is made the 
author of sin. 

The first Principles of Morals relate (A) to virtue in gen- 
eral; (B) to the different branches of virtue; (C) to the com- 
parison of virtues. The first are, some things in human conduct 
merit approbation and praise, others blame and punishment. 


That which is involuntary deserves neither. What is necessary 
cannot be the object of praise or blame. Men are culpable for 
omitting as well as for performing acts. We ought to use the 
best means to learn our duty. We ought to fortify ourselves 
against temptation. The second are, we ought to prefer a greater 
to a less good. We should follow the intuitions of nature. No 
man is born for himself only. We ought to act towards another 
as we should wish him to act towards us. Veneration and sub- 
mission to God are obligatory on all. Of the third class are, 
unmerited generosity should be secondary to gratitude, and both 
to justice. Unmerited beneficence should yield to compassion 
to the miserable. External acts of piety to works of mercy. An 
act deserving moral approbation must be believed by the agent 
to be morally good. Justice and its obligations are naturally 
approved as morally good— and are not the results of artificial 
arrangements. These positions are against Hume. Moral appro- 
bation is an act of judgment as well as of feeling. 

The Correspondence Between David Hume 
and Thomas Reid 

In The Works of Thomas Reid, edited by Sir William Hamilton, Vol- 
ume I, pages 7 £., is a copy of a letter from David Hume to Thomas 
Reid, and on page 91, a copy of one from Reid to Hume. Dugald 
Stewart gives this explanation of this exchange of letters: "As the 
refutation of Mr. Hume's Sceptical theory was the great and pro- 
fessed object of Dr. Reid's Inquiry he was anxious, before taking the 
field as a controversial writer, to guard against the danger of mis- 
apprehending or misrepresenting the meaning of his adversary, by 
submitting his reasonings to Mr. Hume's private examination. With 
this view he availed himself of the good offices of Dr. Blair, with 
whom both he and Mr. Hume had long lived in habits of friendship. 
The communications which he at first transmitted, consisted only of 
detached parts of the work, and appear evidently, from a correspond- 


ence which I have perused, to have conveyed a very imperfect idea 
of his general system. In one of Mr. Hume's letters to Dr. Blair, he 
betrays some want of his usual good humour, in looking forward to 
his new antagonist. 'I wish,' says he, 'that the parsons would confine 
themselves to their old occupation of worrying one another, and 
leave philosophers to argue with temper, moderation, and good man- 
ners.' After Mr. Hume, however, had read the manuscript, he ad- 
dressed himself directly to the author, in terms so candid and liberal, 
that it would be unjust to his memory to withhold from the public 
so pleasing a memorial of his character." (From Collected Works of 
Dugald Stewart, Volume X, p. 256.) Stewart does not give the date 
of this letter, February 25, 1763. See the editor's comments in the 


By Dr. Blair's means I have been favoured with the perusal of 
your performance, which I have read with great pleasure and 
attention. It is certainly very rare, that a piece so deeply philo- 
sophical is wrote with so much spirit, and affords so much 
entertainment to the reader; though I must still regret the dis- 
advantages under which I read it, as I never had the whole 
performance at once before me, and could not be able fully 
to compare one part with another. To this reason, chiefly, I 
ascribe some obscurities, which, in spite of your short analysis 
or abstract, still seem to hang over your system. For I must 
do you the justice to own, that when I enter into your ideas, 
no man appears to express himself with greater perspicuity 
than you do; a talent which, above all others, is requisite in 
that species of literature which you have cultivated. There are 
some objections which I would willingly propose to the chapter, 
"Of Sight," did I not suspect that they proceed from my not 
sufficiently understanding it; and I am the more confirmed in 
this suspicion, as Dr. Blair tells me, that the former objections 
I made had been derived chiefly from that cause. I shall, there- 
fore, forbear till the whole can be before me, and shall not at 
present propose any farther difficulties to your reasonings. I 
shall only say, that if you have been able to clear up these 


abstruse and important subjects, instead of being mortified, I 
shall be so vain as to pretend to a share of the praise; and 
shall think that my errors, by having at least some coherence, 
had led you to make a more strict review of my principles, 
which were the common ones, and to perceive their futility. 

As I was desirous to be of some use to you, I kept a 
watchful eye all along over your style; but it is really so correct, 
and so good English, that I found not anything worth the 
remarking. There is only one passage in this chapter, where you 
make use of the phrase hinder to do, instead of hinder from 
doing, which is the English one; but I could not find the 
passage when I sought for it. You may judge how unexception- 
able the whole appeared to me, when I could remark so small 
a blemish. I beg my compliments to my friendly adversaries, 
Dr. Campbell and Dr. Gerard, and also to Dr. Gregory, whom 
I suspect to be of the same disposition, though he has not 
openly declared himself such. 


King's College (Aberdeen), 
18th March, 1763. 

Sir, On Monday last, Mr. John Farquhar brought me your 
letter of February 25th, enclosed in one from Dr. Blair. I 
thought myself very happy in having the means of obtaining 
at second hand, through the friendship of Dr. Blair, your opin- 
ion of my performance: and as you have been pleased to com- 
municate it directly in so polite and friendly a manner, as merits 
great acknowledgment on my part. Your keeping a watchful 
eye over my style, with a view to be of use to me, is an 
instance of candour and generosity to an antagonist, which 
would affect me very sensibly, although I had no personal con- 
cern in it, and I shall always be proud to show so amiable an 
example. Your judgment of the style, indeed, gives me great 
consolation, as I was very diffident of myself in regard to Eng- 
lish, and have been indebted to Drs. Campbell and Gerard for 
many corrections of that kind. 


In attempting to throw some new light upon those abstruse 
subjects, I wish to preserve the due mean betwixt confidence and 
despair. But whether I have anv success in this attempt or not, 
I shall always avow myself your disciple in metaphysics. I have 
learned more from your writings in this kind, than from all 
others put together. Your system appears to me not only co- 
herent in all its parts, but likewise justly deduced from princi- 
ples commonly received among philosophers; principles which 
I never thought of calling in question, until the conclusions you 
draw from them in the Treatise of Human Nature made me sus- 
pect them. If these principles are solid, your system must stand; 
and whether they are or not, can better be judged after you 
have brought to light the whole system that grows out of them, 
than when the greater part of it was wrapped up in clouds 
and darkness. I agree with you, therefore, that if this system 
shall ever be demolished, you have a just claim to a great share 
of the praise, both because you have made it a distinct and 
determined mark to be aimed at, and have furnished proper 
artillery for the purpose. 

When you have seen the whole of my performance, I shall 
take it as a very great favour to have your opinion upon it, 
from which I make no doubt of receiving light, whether I 
receive correction or no. Your friendlv adversaries Drs. Camp- 
bell and Gerard as well as Dr. Gregory, return their compli- 
ments to you respectfully. A little philosophical society here, of 
which all the three are members, is much indebted to you for 
its entertainment. Your company would, although we are all 
good Christians, be more acceptable than that of St. Athanasius; 
and since we cannot have you upon the bench, you are brought 
oftener than any other man to the bar, accused and defended 
with great zeal, but without bitterness. If you write no more in 
morals, politics, or metaphysics, I am afraid we shall be at a 
loss for subjects. I am, respectfully, Sir, you most obliged, hum- 
ble servant, 

Thomas Reid 


Of Mr. Humes Opinion of the Idea of Power 

By Thomas Reid 

This selection is from The Works of Thomas Reid, edited by Sir 
William Hamilton (Edinburgh: Maclachlan and Stewart, 1863), Vol. 
II, pp. 520-22. It is Chapter IV of Essay I, of the Essays on the Intel- 
lectual Powers of Man, 1785. It is a fair sample of Reid's criticisms 
of Hume. 

This very ingenious author adopts the principle of Mr. Locke 
before mentioned— That all our simple ideas are derived either 
from sensation or reflection. This he seems to understand even 
in a stricter sense than Mr. Locke did. For he will have all our 
simple ideas to be copies of preceding impressions, either of our 
external senses or of consciousness. "After the most accurate 
examination," says he, "of which I am capable, I venture to 
affirm, that the rule here holds without any exception, and that 
every simple idea has a simple impression which resembles it, 
and every simple impression a correspondent idea. Every one 
may satisfy himself in this point, by running over as many as he 

I observe here, by the way, that this conclusion is formed by 
the author rashly and unphilosophically. For it is a conclusion 
that admits of no proof but by induction; and it is upon this 
ground that he himself founds it. The induction cannot be per- 
fect till every simple idea that can enter into the human mind 
be examined, and be shown to be copied from a resembling 
impression of sense or of consciousness. No man can pretend 
to have made this examination of all our simple ideas without 
exception; and, therefore, no man can, consistently with the rules 
of philosophising, assure us, that this conclusion holds without 
any exception. 

The author professes, in his title page, to introduce into 
moral subjects, the experimental method of reasoning. This was 


a very laudable attempt; but he ought to have known that it is 
a rule in the experimental method of reasoning— That conclu- 
sions established by induction ought never to exclude exceptions, 
if any such should afterwards appear from observation or experi- 
ment. Sir Isaac Newton, speaking of such conclusions, says, "Et 
si quando in experiundo postea repreiatur aliquid, quod a parte 
contraria faciat; turn dcnium, non sine istis cxccptionibus af- 
firmetur conchisio opportebit." "But," says our author, "I will 
venture to affirm that the rule here holds without any excep- 

Accordingly, throughout the whole treatise, this general rule 
is considered as of sufficient authority, in itself, to exclude, even 
from a hearing, everything that appears to be an exception to it. 
This is contrary to the fundamental principles of the experi- 
mental method of reasoning, and, therefore, may be called rash 
and unphilosophical. 

Having thus established this general principle, the author 
does great execution by it among our ideas. He finds, that we 
have no idea of substance, material or spiritual; that body and 
mind are only certain trains of related impressions and ideas, 
that we have no idea of space or duration, and no idea of power, 
active or intellectual. 

Mr. Locke used his principle of sensation and reflection with 
greater moderation and mercy. Being unwilling to thrust the 
ideas we have mentioned into the limbo of non-existence, he 
stretches sensation and reflection to the very utmost, in order 
to receive these ideas within the pale: and draws them into it, 
as it were, by violence. 

But this author, instead of showing them any favour, seems 
fond to get rid of them. 

Of the ideas mentioned, it is only that of power that con- 
cerns our present subject. And, with regard to this, the author 
boldly affirms, "That we never have any idea of Power; that 
we deceive ourselves when we imagine we are possessed of anv 
idea of this kind." 

He begins with observing, "That the terms efficacy, agency, 
power, force, energy, are all nearly synonymous; and, there- 


fore, it is an absurdity to employ any of them in defining the 
rest. By this observation," says he, "we reject at once the vulgar 
definitions which philosophers have given of power and efficacy." 

Surely this author was not ignorant that there are many 
things of which we have a clear and distinct conception, which 
are so simple in their nature, that they cannot be defined any 
other way than by synonymous words. It is true that this is 
not a logical definition; but that there is, as he affirms, an ab- 
surdity in using it, when no better can be had, I cannot per- 

He might here have applied to power and efficacy, what he 
says, in another place, of pride and humility. "The passions of 
pride and humility" he says, "being simple and uniform impres- 
sions, it is impossible we can ever give a just definition of them. 
As the words are of general use, and the things they represent 
the most common of any, every one, of himself, will be able 
to form a just notion of them without danger of mistake." 

He mentions Mr. Locke's account of the idea of Power— that, 
observing various changes in things, we conclude that there must 
be somewhere a power capable of producing them, and so arrive 
at last, by this reasoning, at the idea of Power and Efficacy. 

"But," says he, "to be satisfied that this explication is more 
popular than philosophical, we need but reflect on two very 
obvious principles, first, That Reason alone can never give rise 
to any original idea; and, secondly, That Reason, as distin- 
guished from Experience, can never make us conclude that a 
cause, or productive quality, is absolutely requisite to every be- 
ginning of existence." 

Before we consider the two principles which our author 
opposes to the popular opinion of Mr. Locke, I observe: 

First, That there are some popular opinions, which, on that 
very account, deserve more regard from philosophers than this 
author is willing to bestow. 

That things cannot begin to exist, nor undergo any change, 
without a cause that hath power to produce that change, is 
indeed so popular an opinion that, I believe, this author is the 
first of mankind that ever called it in question. It is so popular 


that there is not a man of common prudence who does not 
act from this opinion, and rely upon it every day of his life. 
And any man who should conduct himself by the contrary opin- 
ion, would soon be confined as insane, and continue in that state 
till a sufficient cause was found for his enlargement. 

Such a popular opinion as this stands upon a higher author- 
ity than that of philosophy; and philosophy must strike sail to it, 
if she would not render herself contemptible to every man of 
common understanding. 

For though, in matters of deep speculation, the multitude 
must be guided by philosophers, yet, in things that are within 
the reach of every man's understanding, and upon which the 
whole conduct of human life turns, the philosopher must fol- 
low the multitude, or make himself perfectly ridiculous. 

Secondly, I observe, that whether this popular opinion be 
true or false, it follows, from men's having this opinion, that 
they have an idea of power. A false opinion about power, no less 
than a true, implies an idea of power; for how can men have 
any opinion, true or false, about a thing of which they have no 

The first of the very obvious principles which the author 
opposes to Mr. Locke's account of the idea of power, is— that 
Reason alone can never give rise to any original idea. 

This appears to me so far from being a very obvious prin- 
ciple, that the contrary is very obvious. 

Is it not our reasoning faculty that gives rise to the idea 
of reasoning itself? As our idea of sight takes its rise from our 
being endowed with that faculty, so does our idea of reasoning. 
Do not the ideas of demonstration, of probability, our ideas of 
a syllogism, of major, minor and conclusion, of an enthymeme, 
dilemma, sorites, and all the various modes of reasoning, take 
their rise from the faculty of reason? Or is it possible that a 
being, not endowed with the faculty of reasoning, should have 
these ideas? This principle, therefore, is so far from being obvi- 
ously true, that it appears to be obviously false. 

The second, obvious principle is, That Reason, as distin- 
guished from Experience, can never make us conclude, that a 


cause, or productive quality, is absolutely requisite to every 
beginning of existence. 

In some Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, I had 
occasion to treat of this principle— That every change in nature 
must have a cause; and, to prevent repetition, I beg leave to 
refer the reader to what is said upon this subject, Essay vi, 
Chap. 6. I endeavoured to show that it is a first principle, evi- 
dent to all men come to years of understanding. Besides its hav- 
ing been universally received, without the least doubt, from the 
beginning of the world, it has this sure mark of a first principle, 
that the belief of it is absolutely necessary in the ordinary 
affairs of life, and, without it, no man could act with common 
prudence, or avoid the imputation of insanity. Yet a philoso- 
pher, who acted upon the firm belief of it every day of his 
life, thinks fit, in his closet, to call it in question. 

He insinuates here that we may know it from experience. I 
endeavoured to show, that we do not learn it from experience, 
for two reasons. 

First— Because it is a necessary truth, and has ahvays been 
received as a necessary truth. Experience gives no information 
of what is necessary, or of what must be. 

We may know from experience, what is, or what was, and 
from that may probably conclude what shall be in like circum- 
stances; but, with regard to what must necessarily be, experience 
is perfectly silent. 

Thus we know, by unvaried experience, from the beginning 
of the world, that the sun and stars rise in the east and set in 
the west. But no man believes, that it could not possibly have 
been otherwise, or that it did not depend upon the will and 
power of Him who made the world, whether the earth should 
revolve to the east or to the west. 

In like manner, if we had experience, ever so constant, that 
every change in nature we have observed, actually had a cause, 
this might afford ground to believe, that, for the future, it shall 
be so; but no ground at all to believe that it must be so, and 
cannot be otherwise. 

Another reason to show that this principle is not learned from 


experience is— That experience does not show us a cause of one 
in a hundred of those changes which we observe, and therefore 
can never teach us that there must be a cause of all. 

Of all the paradoxes this author has advanced, there is not 
one more shocking to the human understanding than this, That 
things may begin to exist without a cause. This would put an 
end to all speculation, as well as to all the business of life. The 
employment of speculative men, since the beginning of the 
world, has been to investigate the causes of things. What pity 
is it, they never thought of putting the previous question, 
Whether things have a cause or not? This question has at last 
been stated; and what is there so ridiculous as not to be main- 
tained by some philosopher? 

Enough has been said upon it, and more, I think, than it 
deserves. But, being about to treat of the active powers of the 
human mind, I thought it improper to take no notice of what has 
been said by so celebrated a Philosopher, to show that there is 
not in the human mind, any idea of power. 

Philosophy and Common Sense 

By Thomas Reid 

This selection is from The Works of Thomas Reid, edited by Sir 
William Hamilton (sixth ed., 1863), pp. 100-101, 105-8, and 110- 
11. It comprises a part of Section III of Chapter I and Sections II- 
VII of Chapter II of Reid's An Inquiry into the Human Mind. 

Descartes, Malebranche, and Locke, have all employed their 
genius and skill to prove the existence of a material world; and 
with very bad success. Poor untaught mortals believe undoubt- 
edly that there is a sun, moon, and stars; an earth, which we 
inhabit; country, friends, and relations, which we enjoy; land, 
houses, and moveables, which we possess. But philosophers, pity- 


ing the credulity of the vulgar, resolve to have no faith but what 
is founded upon reason. They apply to philosophy to furnish 
them with reasons for the belief of those things which all man- 
kind have believed, without being able to give any reason for 
it. And surely one would expect, that, in matters of such impor- 
tance, the proof would not be difficult: but it is the most difficult 
thing in the world. For these three great men, with the best 
good will, have not been able, from all the treasures of philos- 
ophy, to draw one argument that is fit to convince a man that 
can reason, of the existence of any one thing without him. 
Admired Philosophy! daughter of light! parent of knowledge and 
wisdom! if thou art she, surely thou hast not yet arisen upon 
the human mind, nor blessed us with more of thy rays than are 
sufficient to shed a darkness visible upon the human faculties, 
and to disturb that repose and security which happier mortals 
enjoy, who never approached thine altar, nor felt thine influence! 
But if, indeed, thou hast not power to dispel these clouds and 
phantoms which thou hast discovered or created, withdraw this 
penurious and malignant ray; I despise Philosophy, and re- 
nounce its guidance— let my soul dwell with Common Sense. . . . 

It may be observed, that the defects and blemishes in the 
received philosophy concerning the mind, which have most ex- 
posed it to contempt and ridicule of sensible men, have chiefly 
been owing to this— that the votaries of this Philosophy, from 
a natural prejudice in her favour, have endeavoured to extend 
her jurisdiction beyond its just limits, and to call to her bar 
the dictates of Common Sense. But these decline this jurisdic- 
tion; they disdain the trial of reasoning, and disown its author- 
ity; they neither claim its aid, nor dread its attacks. 

In this unequal contest betwixt Common Sense and Philos- 
ophy, the latter will always come off both with dishonour and 
loss; nor can she ever thrive till this rivalship is dropt, these 
encroachments given up, and a cordial friendship restored: for, 
in reality, Common Sense holds nothing of Philosophy, nor 
needs her aid. But, on the other hand, Philosophy (if I may 
be permitted to change the metaphor) has no other root but 
the principles of Common Sense; it grows out of them, and 


draws its nourishment from them. Severed from this root, its 
honours wither, its sap is dried up, it dies and rots. 

The philosophers of the last age, whom I have mentioned, 
did not attend to the preserving this union and subordination 
so carefully as the honour and interest of philosophy required: 
but those of the present have waged open war with Common 
Sense, and hope to make a complete conquest of it by the sub- 
tilties of Philosophy— an attempt no less audacious and vain 
than that of the giants to dethrone almighty Jove. . . . 

Let us now attend carefully to what the mind is conscious 
of when we smell a rose or a lily; and, since our language 
affords no other name for this sensation, we shall call it a smell 
or odour, carefully excluding from the meaning of those names 
everything but the sensation itself, at least till we have exam- 
ined it. 

Suppose a person who never had this sense before, to receive 
it all at once, and to smell a rose— can he perceive any similitude 
or agreement between the smell and the rose, or indeed between 
it and any other object whatsoever? Certainly he cannot. He 
finds himself affected in a new way, he knows not why or from 
what cause. Like a man that feels some pain or pleasure for- 
merly unknown to him, he is conscious that he is not the cause 
of it himself; but cannot, from the nature of the thing, deter- 
mine whether it is caused by body or spirit, by something near, 
or by something at a distance. It has no similitude to anything 
else, so as to admit of a comparison; and, therefore, he can 
conclude nothing from it, unless, perhaps, that there must 
be some unknown cause for it. 

It is evidently ridiculous to ascribe to it figure, colour, 
extension, or any other quality of bodies. He cannot give it a 
place, any more than he can give a place to melancholy or 
joy, nor can he conceive it to have any existence, but when 
it is smelled. So that it appears to be a simple and original 
affection or feeling of the mind, altogether inexplicable and 
unaccountable. It is, indeed, impossible that it can be in any 
body: it is a sensation, and a sensation can only be in a senti- 
ent thing. 


The various odours have each their different degrees of 
strength or weakness. Most of them are agreeable or disagree- 
able; and frequently those that are agreeable when weak, are 
disagreeable when stronger. When we compare different smells 
together, we can perceive very few resemblances or contrarieties, 
or, indeed, relations of any kind between them. They are all so 
simple in themselves, and so different from each other, that it 
is hardly possible to divide them into genera and species. Most 
of the names we give them are particular; as the smell of a 
rose, of a jessamine, and the like. Yet there are some general 
names— as sweet, stinking, musty, putrid, cadaverous, aromatic. 
Some of them seem to refresh and animate the mind, others 
to deaden and depress it. 

So far we have considered this sensation abstractly. Let 
us next compare it with other things to which it bears some 
relation. And first I shall compare this sensation with the re- 
membrance, and the imagination of it. 

I can think of the smell of a rose when I do not smell it; 
and it is possible that when I think of it, there is neither rose 
nor smell anywhere existing. But when I smell it, I am neces- 
sarily determined to believe that the sensation really exists. 
This is common to all sensations, that, as they cannot exist 
but in being perceived, so they cannot be perceived but they 
must exist. I could as easily doubt of my own existence, as 
of the existence of my sensations. Even those profound philos- 
ophers who have endeavoured to disprove their own existence, 
have yet left their sensations to stand upon their own bottom, 
stript of a subject, rather than call in question the reality of 
their existence. 

Here, then, a sensation, a smell for instance, may be presented 
to the mind three different ways: it may be smelled, it may be 
remembered, it may be imagined or thought of. In the first 
case, it is necessarily accompanied with a belief of its present 
existence; in the second, it is necessarily accompanied with a 
belief of its past existence; and in the last, it is not accompanied 
with belief at all, but is what the logicians call a simple appre- 

Why sensation should compel our belief of the present exist- 


ence of the thing, memory, a belief of its past existence, and 
imagination no belief at all, I believe no philosopher can give 
a shadow of reason, but that such is the nature of these opera- 
tions: they are all simple and original, and therefore inexplicable 
acts of the mind. 

Suppose that once, and only once, I smelled a tuberose in a 
certain room, where it grew in a pot and gave a very grateful 
perfume. Next day I relate what I saw and smelled. When I 
attend as carefully as I can to what passes in my mind in this 
case, it appears evident that the very thing I saw yesterday, and 
the fragrance I smelled, are now the immediate objects of my 
mind, when I remember it. Further, I can imagine this pot 
and flower transported to the room where I now sit, and yield- 
ing the same perfume. Here likewise it appears, that the 
individual thing which I saw and smelled, is the object of my 

Philosophers indeed tell me, that the immediate object of 
my memory and imagination in this case, is not the past sensa- 
tion, but an idea of it, an image, phantasm, or species, of the 
odour I smelled; that this idea now exists in my mind, or in 
my sensorium; and the mind, contemplating this present idea, 
finds it a representation of what is past, or of what may exist; 
and accordingly calls it memory, or imagination. This is the 
doctrine of the ideal philosophy; which we shall not now exam- 
ine, that we may not interrupt the thread of present investiga- 
tion. Upon the strictest attention, memory appears to me to 
have things that are past and not present ideas, for its object. 
We shall afterwards examine this system of ideas, and endeavour 
to make it appear, that no solid proof has ever been advanced 
of the existence of ideas; that they are a mere fiction and hypoth- 
esis, contrived to solve the phenomena of the human under- 
standing; that they do not at all answer this end; and that this 
hypothesis of ideas or images of things in the mind, or in the 
sensorium, is the parent of those many paradoxes so shocking 
to common sense, and of that scepticism which disgrace our 
philosophy of the mind, and have brought upon it the ridicule 
and contempt of sensible men. 

In the meantime, I beg leave to think, with the vulgar, that, 


when I remember the smell of the tuberose, that very sensation 
which I had yesterday and which has now no more any exist- 
ence, is the immediate object of my memory; and when I 
imagine it present, the sensation itself, and not any idea of it, is 
the object of my imagination. But, though the object of my sen- 
sation, memory, and imagination, be in this case the same, yet 
these acts or operations of the mind are as different, and as 
easily distinguishable, as smell, taste, and sound. I am conscious 
of a difference in kind between sensation and memory, and 
between both and imagination. I find this also, that the sen- 
sation compels my belief of the present existence of the smell, 
and memory of my belief of its past existence. There is a smell, 
is the immediate testimony of sense; there was a smell, is the 
immediate testimony of memory. If you ask me, why I believe 
that the smell exists, I can give no other reason, nor shall ever 
be able to give any other, than that I smell it. If you ask, why 
I believe that it existed yesterday, I can give no other reason 
but that I remember it. 

Sensation and memory, therefore, are simple, original, and 
perfectly distinct operations of the mind, and both of them are 
original principles of belief. Imagination is distinct from both, 
but is no principle of belief. Sensation implies the present exist- 
ence of its object, memory its past existence, but imagination 
views its object naked, and without any belief of its existence 
or non-existence, and is therefore what the schools call Simple 

But here, again, the ideal system comes in our way: it 
teaches us that the first operation of the mind about its ideas, 
is simple apprehension— that is, the bare conception of a thing 
without any belief about it: and that, after we have got simple 
apprehensions, by comparing them together, we perceive agree- 
ments or disagreements between them; and that this percep- 
tion of the agreement or disagreement of ideas is all that we 
call belief, judgment, or knowledge. Now, this appears to me to 
be all fiction, without any foundation in nature; for it is acknowl- 
edged by all, that sensation must go before memory and imagin- 
ation; and hence it necessarily follows, that apprehension, 


accompanied with belief and knowledge, must go before sim- 
ple apprehension, at least in the matters we are now speaking 
of. So that here, instead of saying that the belief or knowledge 
is got by putting together and comparing the simple apprehen- 
sions, we ought rather to say that the simple apprehension is 
performed by resolving and analysing a natural and original 
judgment. And it is with the operations of the mind, in this 
case, as with natural bodies, which are, indeed, compounded 
of simple principles or elements. Nature does not exhibit these 
elements separate, to be compounded by us; she exhibits them 
mixed and compounded in concrete bodies, and it is only by 
art and chemical analysis that they can be separated. 

But what is this belief or knowledge which accompanies sen- 
sation and memory? Every man knows what it is, but no man 
can define it. Does any man pretend to define sensation, or to 
define consciousness? It is happy, indeed, that no man does. And 
if no philosopher had endeavoured to define and explain belief, 
some paradoxes in philosophy, more incredible than ever were 
brought forth by the most abject superstition or the most frantic 
enthusiasm, had never seen the light. Of this kind surely is that 
modern discovery of the ideal philosophy, that sensation, mem- 
ory, belief, and imagination, when they have the same object, 
are only different degrees of strength and vivacity in the idea. 
Suppose the idea be that of a future state after death: one man 
believes it firmly— this means no more than that he hath a strong 
and lively idea of it; another neither believes nor disbelieves— 
that is, he has a weak and faint idea. Suppose, now, a third 
person believes firmly that there is no such thing, I am at a loss 
to know whether his idea be faint or lively: if it is faint, then 
there may be a firm belief where the idea is faint; if the idea 
is lively, then the belief of a future state and the belief of no 
future state must be one and the same. The same arguments that 
are used to prove that belief implies only a stronger idea of the 
object than simple apprehension, might as well be used to prove 
that love implies only a stronger idea of the object than indiffer- 
ence. And then what shall we say of hatred, which must upon 
this hypothesis be a degree of love, or a degree of indifference? 


If it should be said, that in love there is something more than 
an idea— to wit, an affection of the mind— may it not be said 
with equal reason, that in belief there is something more than an 
idea— to wit, an assent or persuasion of the mind? 

But perhaps it may be thought as ridiculous to argue against 
this strange opinion, as to maintain it. Indeed, if a man should 
maintain that a circle, a square, and a triangle differ only in 
magnitude, and not in figure, I believe he would find nobody 
disposed either to argue against him; and yet I do not think it 
less shocking to common sense, to maintain that sensation, mem- 
ory, and imagination differ only in degree, and not in kind. I 
know it is said, that, in a delirium, or in dreaming, men are apt 
to mistake one for the other. But does it follow from this, that 
men who are neither dreaming nor in a delirium cannot distin- 
guish them? I cannot tell: neither can I tell how a man knows 
that he exists. But, if any man seriously doubts whether he is 
in a delirium, I think it highly probable that he is, and that it 
it time to seek for a cure, which I am persuaded he will not 
find in the whole system of logic. 

I mentioned before Locke's notion of a belief of knowledge; 
he holds that it consists in a perception of the agreement or 
disagreement of ideas; and this he values himself upon as a 
very important discovery. 

We shall have occasion afterwards to examine more particu- 
larly this grand principle of Locke's philosophy, and to show that 
it is one of the main pillars of modern scepticism, although he 
had no intention to make that use of it. At present let us only 
consider how it agrees with the instances of belief now under 
consideration; and whether it gives any light to them. I believe 
that the sensation I have exists; and that the sensation I remem- 
ber does not now exist, but did exist yesterday. Here, according 
to Locke's system, I compare the idea of a sensation with the 
ideas of past and present existence: at one time I perceive that 
this idea agrees with that of present existence, but disagrees 
with that of past existence; but, at another time, it agrees with 
the idea of past existence, and disagrees with that of present 
existence. Truly these ideas seem to be very capricious in their 


agreements and disagreements. Besides, I cannot, for my heart, 
conceive what is meant by either. I say a sensation exists, and I 
think I understand clearly what I mean. But you want to make 
the thing clearer, and for that end tell me, that there is an agree- 
ment between the idea of that sensation and the idea of exist- 
ence. To speak freely, this conveys to me no light, but darkness; 
I can conceive no otherwise of it, than as an odd and obscure 
circumlocution. I conclude, then, that the belief which accom- 
panies sensation and memory, is a simple act of the mind, which 
cannot be defined. It is, in this respect, like seeing and hearing, 
which can never be so defined as to be understood by those 
who have not these faculties; and to such as have them, no 
definition can make these operations more clear than they are 
already. In like manner, every man that has any belief— and he 
must be a curiosity that has none— knows perfectly what belief 
is, but can never define or explain it. I conclude, also, that sen- 
sation, memory, and imagination, even where they have the 
same object, are operations of a quite different nature, and 
perfectly distinguishable by those who are sound and sober. A 
man that is in danger of confounding them, is indeed to be 
pitied; but whatever relief he may find from another art, he can 
find none from logic or metaphysic. I conclude further, that it 
is no less a part of the human constitution, to believe the present 
existence of our sensations, and to believe the past existence of 
what we remember, than it is to believe that twice two make 
four. The evidence of sense, the evidence of memory, and the 
evidence of the necessary relations of things, are all distinct and 
original kinds of evidence, equally grounded on our constitu- 
tion: none of them depends upon, or can be resolved into 
another. To reason against any of these kinds of evidence is 
absurd, nay, to reason for them is absurd. They are first prin- 
ciples; and such fall not within the province of reason, but of 
common sense. . . . 

Leaving this philosophy, therefore, to those who have occa- 
sion for it, and can use it discreetly as a chamber exercise, we 
may still inquire how the rest of mankind, and even the adepts 
themselves, except in some solitary moments, have got so strong 


and irresistible a belief, that thought must have a subject, and be 
the act of some thinking being; how every man believes himself 
to be something distinct from his ideas and impressions— some- 
thing which continues the same identical self when all his ideas 
and impressions are changed. It is impossible to trace the origin 
of this opinion in history; for all languages have it interwoven 
in their original construction. All nations have always believed 
it. The constitution of all laws and governments, as well as the 
common transactions of life, suppose it. 

It is no less impossible for any man to recollect when he 
himself came by this notion; for, as far back as we can remem- 
ber, we were already in possession of it, and as fully persuaded 
of our own existence, and the existence of other things, as that 
one and one make two. It seems, therefore, that this opinion 
preceded all reasoning, and experience, and instruction, and this 
is the more probable, because we could not get it by any of 
these means. It appears, then, to be an undeniable fact, that, 
from thought or sensation, all mankind, constantly and invari- 
ably, from the first dawning of reflection, do infer a power or 
faculty of thinking, and a permanent being or mind to which 
that faculty belongs; and that we as invariably ascribe all the 
various kinds of sensation and thought we are conscious of, to 
one individual mind or self. 

But by what rules of logic we make these inferences, it is 
impossible to show; nay, it is impossible to show how our sen- 
sations and thoughts can give us the very notion and conception 
either of a mind or of a faculty. The faculty of smelling is 
something very different from the actual sensation of smelling; 
for the faculty may remain when we have no sensation. And 
the mind is no less different from the faculty; for it continues 
the same individual being when the faculty is lost. Yet this sen- 
sation suggests to us both a faculty and a mind; and not onl) 
suggests the notion of them, but creates a belief of their exist- 
ence; although it is impossible to discover, by reason, any tie 
or connection between one and the other. 

What shall we say, then? Either those inferences which we 
draw from our sensations— namely, the existence of a mind, and 


of powers or faculties belonging to it— are prejudices of philos- 
ophy or education, mere fictions of the mind, which a wise man 
should throw off as he does the belief of fairies; or they are judg- 
ments of nature— judgments not got by comparing ideas, and 
perceiving agreements and disagreements, but immediately in- 
spired by our constitution. 

If this last is the case, as I apprehend it is, it will be impos- 
sible to shake off those opinions, and we must yield to them at 
last, though we struggle hard to get rid of them. And if we 
could, by a determined obstinacy, shake off the principles of 
our nature, this is not to act the philosopher, but the fool or 
the madman. It is incumbent upon those who think that these 
are not natural principles, to show, in the first place, how we 
can otherwise get the notion of a mind and its faculties; and 
then to show how we come to deceive ourselves into the opinion 
that sensation cannot be without a sentient being. 

It is the received doctrine of philosophers, that our notions 
of relations can only be got by comparing the related ideas: 
but, in the present case, there seems to be an instance to the 
contrary. It is not by having first the notion of mind and sen- 
sation, and then comparing them together, that we perceive the 
one to have the relation of a subject or substratum, and the 
other that of an act or operation: on the contrary, one of the 
related things— to wit, sensation— suggests to us both the cor- 
relate and the relation. 

I beg leave to make use of the word suggestion, because I 
know not one more proper, to express a power of the mind, 
which seems entirely to have escaped the notice of philosophers, 
and to which we owe many of our simple notions which are 
neither impressions nor ideas, as well as many original principles 
of belief. I shall endeavour to illustrate, by an example, what I 
understand by this word. We all know, that a certain kind of 
sound suggests immediately to the mind, a coach passing in 
the street; and not only produces the imagination, but the belief, 
that a coach is passing. Yet there is here no comparing of ideas, 
no perception of agreements or disagreements, to produce this 
belief; nor is there the least similitude between the sound we 


hear and the coach we imagine and believe to be passing. 

It is true that this suggestion is not natural and original; it 
is the result of experience and habit. But I think it appears, 
from what hath been said, that there are natural suggestions: 
particularly, that sensation suggests the notion of present exist- 
ence, and the belief that what we perceive or feel does now 
exist; that memory suggests the notion of past existence, and 
the belief that what we remember did exist in time past; and that 
our sensations and thoughts do also suggest the notion of a mind, 
and the belief of its existence, and of its relation to our thoughts. 
By a like natural principle it is, that a beginning of existence, 
or any change in nature, suggests to us the notion of a cause 
and compels our belief of its existence. And, in like manner, as 
shall be shown when we come to the sense of touch, certain 
sensations of touch, by the constitution of our nature, suggest to 
us extension, solidity, and motion, which are nowise like to sen- 
sation, although they have been hitherto confounded with them 


Dugald Stewart 


The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

Dugald Stewart, son of Rev. Matthew Stewart, Professor of 
Mathematics, University of Edinburgh, born November 22, 
1753; educated at University of Edinburgh, also at Glasgow, 
1771-2; elected successor to his father, 1785, also Professor of 
Moral Philosophy as successor to Adam Ferguson; in 1S10 re- 
linquished active duties; died June 11, 1828. 

Dugald Stewart followed Reid very closely in his methods 
of analysis and his accumulation of the discriminated facts of 
experience, but went far beyond him in the exactness and reach 
of his philosophical principles and method. He illustrated his 
opinions from a very wide range of reading, which, if it was not 
in the eminent sense learned and profound, was careful and 
comprehensive, and never failed to set them forth in an elab- 
orate and elegant diction. In his lectures he is said to have been 
eminently attractive and eloquent. These lectures attracted many 
pupils from the Continent and America, and excited an enthusi- 
astic interest in philosophical investigations, and did much to 
awaken nobler ideals and a more spiritual and ethical faith in 
the young men of his time. The reaction which was awakened in 
France by the influence of Reid upon Royer-Collard was furth- 
ered by the influence of Stewart's writings upon Prevost and 
Jouffroy. Indeed, we may confidently assert that the so-called 
eclectic school of Cousin rests upon the elements and influences 


which were largely furnished by the Scottish philosophers. Says 
Lord Cockburn: "Dugald Stewart was one of the greatest of 
didactic orators. Had he lived in ancient times, his memory 
would have descended to us as that of one of the finest of the 
old eloquent sages. Flourishing in an age which required all 
the dignity of morals to counteract the tendencies of physical 
pursuits and political convulsions, he has exalted the character 
of his country and generation. No intelligent pupil of his ever 
ceased to respect philosophy or was ever false to his principles 
without feeling the crime aggravated by the recollection of the 
morality which Stewart taught him." 

Prof. Veitch says of him: "Among Scottish philosophers Mr. 
Stewart stands pre-eminently out as a psychological observer. On 
questions properly metaphysical he has left little which can be 
regarded as essentially his own. The field within which he 
labored was that of the phenomena of the mind, intellectual, 
moral, and aesthetical, as these appear under the modifications 
imposed on them by the general circumstances of human life- 
education and society. In careful, delicate, and original observa- 
tions within this sphere he has seldom been equalled." 

Stewart's contributions to psychology are abundant and var- 
ious, and they give the principal charm and value of his writings. 
The value and extent of his contributions of this description is 
less obvious, from the circumstances that his psychological writ- 
ings appear more frequently in the form of comments on the 
opinions of others than as his own observations and conclusions. 

He recognizes the influence of the laws of Association far 
more distinctly than Reid had done, and goes so far as to resolve 
our belief in the extension of colored visibilia into "an insepar- 
able association." In this he prepares the way for the more 
extended application of the associational power to the solution 
of psychical phenomena which was adopted by his successor, 
Dr. Thomas Brown. 

In metaphysics, while Stewart followed Reid in general, he 
substituted for the phrases, "the Principle of Common Sense," 
and "Metaphysical Axioms": "the Fundamental Laws of Human 
Belief," and "the Principles of Human Knowledge." Among the 


primary qualities of material bodies he distinguishes (Phil. 
Essays) the "mathematical affections," and recognizes the truth 
that these imply the existence of space and time. 

In respect to causation and the principle of causality it is 
to be observed, however, that in respect to the nature of this 
relation or notion he agrees with Hume, though he dissents 
from the conclusions which Hume derives from this defini- 
tion. . . . 

As an historian of philosophy Stewart is elegant rather than 
erudite, although his Dissertation on the Progress of Metaphysi- 
cal Philosophy contains many just observations and much curi- 
ous knowledge. He barely recognized the existence of the School 
of Kant, the terminology of which offended his taste, if it did 
not somewhat perplex his understanding. 

In 1792 Stewart published Elements of Philosophy of the 
Human Mind, vol. 1; vol. 2 in 1814; both in several editions; 
vol. 3, with additions to vol. 1, in 1827; Edinburgh and London. 
In 1793 he published Outlines of Moral Philosophy, and in many 
editions, in 1795, Dr. Adam Smith's essays, with account of his 
life and writings; in 1801, Account of Life and Writings of 
William Robertson, D. D.; in 1803, Life and Writings of Thomas 
Reid, D. D.; in 1805, A Short Statement of Some Important Facts 
Relative to the Late Election of a Mathematical Professor (Les- 
lie), etc.; in 1806, Postscript to the same; in 1810, Philosophical 
Essays; in 1812, Some Account of a Boy Born Blind; in 1815, 
Part I of A General View of the Progress of Metaphysical, Ethi- 
cal, and Political Philosophy, Since the Revival of Letters in 
Europe; Part II, 1821, prefixed to the supplement to the 4th and 
5th editions of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, also separately, 
Edin. 1821, Bost. 1822; in 1828, The Philosophy of the Active 
and Moral Powers of Man, 2 vols., 8vo, Edin., Bost., 1828, 2 
vols, in French, by Dr. L. Simon, 1824. Complete Works, Cam- 
bridge, Mass., in 7 vols., 1829, also 1831. The collected works 
with additions and memoir by Sir William Hamilton, 11 vols., 
1854-58, Edin. 

The Elements of the Human Mind, Vols. 1, 2, 3 (II, III, IV, 
collected works)— published respectively in 1792, 1814, 1827— 


contain Stewart's most important psychological observations, and 
to a large extent his ablest metaphysical disquisitions. As these 
volumes appeared at intervals somewhat remote from one an- 
other, they also furnish much instructive information in respect 
to the progress of psychology and philosophy during Stewart's 
lifetime. The Introduction, Vol. I, discusses philosophy in gen- 
eral, from the Baconian standpoint, and vindicates the applica- 
tion of the experimental or inductive method to the phenomena 
of the human mind. It might properly be called an apology for 
philosophical and psychological studies, from the charge of 
being necessarily metaphysical. Stewart contends that our knowl- 
edge of matter and mind is relative only and limited to their 
so-called attributes, while yet a reflective examination of the 
processes and principles which are fundamental to all inductive 
inquiries must be of eminent service in studying the laws of 
spirit. His treatment of "External Perception" is limited to a 
few comments upon the errors which have prevailed among 
philosophers and the explanation of these errors. His own doc- 
trine is stated almost within a single page, and seems to suppose 
the reader to be acquainted with the analyses of Reid, which 
Stewart implies that he accepts as altogether satisfactory. At- 
tention is assumed to be a familiar experience without being 
explained, and its relations to memory only are discussed. The 
possibility that voluntary actions should become automatic is 
explained by the law of association, and the doctrine is advanced 
that we can attend to no more than one object at a time. Con- 
ception is employed by Stewart to designate the object of the 
representative power or phantasy, and Stewart maintains that 
there never can be such an object without the momentary belief 
of its real existence. Under Abstraction, Stewart treats of the 
formation and nature of general conceptions, which are often 
called by him ideas, and treated as the equivalent to the ideas 
of the ancient schools. Stewart is himself a conceptionalist. In 
Chapter V of the Association of Ideas, Stewart goes far beyond 
Reid, finding in Hume the ablest expounder of the laws of asso- 
ciation, but notices that our associations are not confined to 
the three relations recognized by Hume, but rest upon every 


possible relation. He discusses the power which the mind has 
over its trains of association, and then proceeds to explain, by 
means of prevalent association, the phenomena of wit, rhyming, 
poetical fancy, invention, dreaming, and adds an extended dis- 
cussion of the influence of habits of association upon speculative 
conclusions, judgments of taste, and morality. Memory and 
imagination are both treated with great fulness of practical illus- 
tration. The second volume of the Elements treats of three 
principal topics: Reason and the Fundamental Laws of Human 
Belief, Reasoning and Deductive Evidence, and The Experi- 
mental or Inductive Logic. In these discussions Stewart proves 
himself to be an able and acute metaphysician in spite of him- 
self, treating as he does, of the a priori elements or conditions 
of all scientific knowledge. The views expressed are in general 
the same as those of Reid, but with greater exactness of state- 
ment and nicety of discrimination. The essential differences 
between several classes of the so-called principles of common 
sense, the ambiguity and consequent infelicity of the appella- 
tion, and the great variety of distinct processes which are indis- 
criminately huddled together, not only by popular writers, but 
by the most careful philosophers, under the designations of 
reason and reasoning, these are all commented on with no little 
acuteness, making the volume a valuable contribution to philos- 
ophy. One serious defect in it is not to be disguised or over- 
looked: Stewart had not the courage of his opinions. He had 
not the confidence in the distinctions which he made, and in 
the principles on which he proposed to build them up into a 
consistent system, nor did he follow them out in their minute 
and ramified applications. He was characteristically cautious of 
what he considered excessive refinement and broad generaliza- 
tions. For a metaphysical philosopher he was afraid of what he 
styled the subtleties of metaphysics when stated into forms too 
refined to be readily apprehended by men of general culture in 
the scholastic language of abstract terminology. He preferred 
to concern himself with the application of his principles to 
special cases, and the illustrations of them by concrete examples. 
The third volume of the Elements consists of a disquisition upon 


language in general, and its relations to thought, upon the Prin- 
ciple or Law of Sympathetic Imitation, and upon the several 
varieties of intellectual character as exemplified in the meta- 
physician, the mathematician, the poet, and the sexes; also a 
comparison between the faculties of man and those of the lower 
animals, with a very curious and valuable Appendix concerning 
James Mitchell, a boy born deaf and blind. 

The Philosophical Essays, originally published in 1810, 4to, 
afterwards 1816, 1818, 8vo, are by far the most important con- 
tributions of Stewart to philosophy proper. The "Preliminary 
Dissertation" treats of prevalent errors in respect to the philos- 
ophy of the mind, among which he criticizes the physiological 
theories of Hartley, Bentham, Priestley, and Darwin (the elder), 
and vindicates for the Philosophy of the Mind a place among 
investigations properly philosophical. The first essay, Part I, 
treats with great critical ability of the defects in Locke's account 
of the origin of knowledge, showing that the applications made 
of his theory by Berkeley and Hume were entirely legitimate 
and logical. The second essay treats with equal ability of the 
Idealism of Berkeley and our belief in the existence of the 
material world. In this essay Stewart introduces his view of the 
mathematical affections of matter. In the third he treats of the 
actual influence of Locke's authority upon the French illuminati 
and encyclopedists. In the fourth he discusses the theories of 
Hartley, Priestley and Darwin; and in the fifth treats of the argu- 
ment for materialism supposed by Home Tooke to be furnished 
from the etymological significations of many words. Part II 
contains four essays relative to matters of taste; 1. On the 
beautiful; 2. On the sublime; 3. On the (faculty or habit) of 
taste; 4. On the culture of certain intellectual habits connected 
with the first elements of taste. These essays in respect to prin- 
ciple and illustrations follow in the line of Burke, Price and 
Alison, the last of whom explains the aesthetic emotions by the 
operation of the associative power. 

The Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers of Man, first 
published in 1828, contains a psychological analysis of the emo- 
tions, Stewart's theory of the moral faculty and of the will, with 


some contributions to natural theology. He follows the views 
of Reid very closely upon all these topics, although his analysis 
is more refined and exact, and his critical and philosophical dis- 
cussions of metaphysical questions are more various and learned. 
The treatise deserves greater consideration because there are 
so few treatises in the English language that treat of the emo- 
tions. It is characterized by the defect that is universal in the 
writings of Stewart, rather discoursing of the opinions of others 
than defining and defending his own. It abounds in interesting 
matter, and is one of the most attractive of Stewart's works. The 
Dissertation on the Progress of Metaphysical Ethical and Politi- 
cal Philosophy Since the Revival of Letters in Europe, Part I, 
1815— Part II, 1821— is very incomplete and unequal. The portion 
most thoroughly elaborated is that on Locke and Leibnitz. His 
remarks on the Scottish school of metaphysicians are acute and 
valuable. His notice of Kant's philosophy is chiefly instructive 
as it shows how inadequately the reach and import of the criti- 
cal philosophy was appreciated by one of the ablest philosophers 
and critics of Great Britain. The Lectures on Political Economy 
were published for the first time in 1855 in the Collected Works 
by Sir William Hamilton. They were printed from the earlier 
MS. notes of the author, with additions from the notes of those 
of his pupils. They fill two volumes and follow in general the 
topics and modes of discussion of the school of Adam Smith. 
The Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind and The 
Philosophy of the Active and Moral Powers have been extensively 
used as textbooks in their original and abridged forms in Great 
Britain and America. 


Four Objections to Reid's Philosophy of 
Common Sense Answered 

By Dugald Stewart 

This selection is from the memoir by Dugald Stewart entitled "An 
Account of the Life and Writings of Thomas Reid," which was read 
at different meetings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1802. It 
is taken from The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart, Vol. X, pp. 
281-86, 289-94, and 303-7. (See the editor's note, p. 82.) The title 
is supplied by the editor, and was suggested by the author's first two 

A slight review of some of the more important and funda- 
mental objections which have been proposed to Dr. Reid's doc- 
trines may, I hope, be useful. Of these objections, the four 
following appear to me to be chiefly entitled to attention. 

1. That he has assumed gratuitously, in all his reasonings, 
that theory concerning the human soul, which the scheme of 
Materialism calls in question. 

2. That his views tend to damp the ardour of philosophical 
curiosity, by stating as ultimate facts, phenomena which may be 
resolved into principles more simple and general. 

3. That by an unnecessary multiplication of original or in- 
stinctive principles, he has brought the science of mind into a 
state more perplexed and unsatisfactory, than that in which it 
was left by Locke and his successors. 

4. That his philosophy, by sanctioning an appeal from the 
decisions of the learned to the voice of the multitude, is unfav- 
orable to a spirit of free inquiry, and lends additional stability to 
popular errors. 

1. With respect to Dr. Reid's supposed assumption of a 
doubtful hypothesis concerning the nature of the thinking and 
sentient principle, it is almost sufficient for me to observe, that 
the charge is directed against that very point of his philosophy 


in which it is most completely invulnerable. The circumstance 
which peculiarly characterizes the inductive science of mind is, 
that it professes to abstain from all speculations concerning its 
nature and essence, confining the attention entirely to phenom- 
ena, for which we have the evidence of consciousness, and to the 
laws by which these phenomena are regulated. In this respect, 
it differs equally, in its scope, from the pneumatological discus- 
sions of the schools, and from the no less visionary theories, so 
loudly vaunted by the physiological metaphysicians of more 
modern times. Compared with the first, it differs, as the inquiries 
of the mechanical philosophers concerning the laws of moving 
bodies, differ from the discussions of the ancient sophists con- 
cerning the existence and nature of motion. Compared with the 
other, the difference is analogous to what exists between the 
conclusions of Newton concerning the law of gravitation, 
and his query concerning the invisible, either of which he 
supposed it might possibly be the effect. The facts which this 
inductive science aims at ascertaining, rest on their own proper 
evidence— an evidence unconnected with all these hypotheses, 
and which would not, in the smallest degree, be affected, al- 
though the truth of any one of them should be fully established. 
It is not, therefore, on account of its inconsistency with any 
favorite opinions of my own, that I would oppose the disquisi- 
tions either of scholastic pneumatology, or of physiological meta- 
physics; but because I consider them as an idle waste of time 
and genius on questions where our conclusions can neither be 
verified nor overturned by an appeal to experiment or observa- 
tion. Sir Isaac Newton's query concerning the cause of gravita- 
tion was certainly not inconsistent with his own discoveries 
concerning its laws; but what would have been the consequences 
to the world, if he had indulged himself in the prosecution of 
hypothetical theories with respect to the former, instead of 
directing his astonishing powers to an investigation of the latter? 
That the general spirit of Dr. Reid's philosophy is hostile to 
the conclusions of the Materialist, is indeed a fact. Not, however, 
because his system rests on the contrary hypothesis as a funda- 
mental principle, but because his inquiries have a powerful 


tendency to wean the understanding gradually from those 
obstinate associations and prejudices, to which the common 
mechanical theories of mind owe all their plausibility. It is, in 
truth, much more from such examples of sound research con- 
cerning the laws of thought, than from any direct metaphysical 
refutation, that a change is to be expected in the opinions of 
those who have been accustomed to confound together two 
classes of phenomena, so completely and essentially different. 
But this view of the subject does not belong to the present argu- 

It has been recommended of late, by a Medical author of 
great reputation, to those who wish to study the human mind, 
to begin with preparing themselves for the task by the study of 
anatomy. I must confess, I cannot perceive the advantages of 
this order of investigation, as the anatomy of the body does not 
seem to me more likely to throw light on the philosophy of the 
mind, than an analysis of the mind to throw light on the physi- 
ology of the body. To ascertain, indeed, the general laws of 
their connexion, from facts established by observation or experi- 
ment, is a reasonable and most interesting object of philosophi- 
cal curiosity; and in this inquiry (which was long ago proposed 
and recommended by Lord Bacon), a knowledge of the consti- 
tution both of mind and body is indispensably requisite; but 
even here, if we wish to proceed on firm ground, the two 
classes of facts must be kept completely distinct, so that neither 
of them may be warped or distorted, in consequence of theories 
suggested by their supposed relations or analogies. 1 Thus, in 
many of the phenomena connected with custom and habit, there 
is ample scope for investigating general laws, both with respect 
to our mental and our corporeal frame; but what light do we 
derive from such information concerning this part of our con- 
stitution, as is contained in the following sentence of Locke? 
"Habits seem to be but trains of motion in the animal spirits, 
which, once set a-going, continue in the same steps they had 

1 Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, pp. 11, 12, 2d 
edit. (Introd. supra, Works, Vol. II, pp. 52, 53.) 


been used to, which, by often treading, are worn into a smooth 
path." 2 In like manner, the laws which regulate the connexion 
between the mind and our external organs, in the case of Per- 
ception, have furnished a very fertile subject of examination to 
some of the best of our modern philosophers; but how impotent 
does the genius of Newton itself appear, when it attempts to 
shoot the gulf which separates the sensible world, and the sen- 
tient principle? "Is not the Sensorium of animals," he asks in 
one of his Queries, "the place where the sentient substance is 
present, and to which the sensible Species of things are brought 
through the nerves and brain, that they may be perceived by 
the mind present in that place?" 

It ought to be remembered also, that this inquiry, with re- 
spect to the laws regulating the connexion between our bodily 
organization, and the phenomena subjected to our own consci- 
ousness, is but one particular department of the philosophy of 
the mind, and that there still remains a wide and, indeed, bound- 
less region, where all our data must be obtained from our own 
mental operations. In examining, for instance, the powers of 
judgment and reasoning, let any person of sound understanding, 
after perusing the observations of Bacon on the different classes 
of our prejudices, or those of Locke on the abuse of words, turn 
his attention to the speculations of some of our contemporary 
theorists, and he will at once perceive the distinction between 
the two modes of investigation which I wish at present to con- 
trast. "Reasoning," says one of the most ingenious and original 
of these, "is that operation of the sensoriwn, by which we 
excite two or many tribes of ideas, and then re-excite the ideas 
in which they differ or correspond. If we determine this differ- 
ence, it is called Judgment; if we in vain endeavour to determine 
it, it is called Doubting. If we re-excite the ideas in which they 
differ, it is called Distinguishing; if we re-excite those in which 
they correspond, it is called Comparing." 3 In what acceptation 
the word idea is to be understood in the foregoing passage, 

2 Essay, &c, Book II, chap, xxxiii, section 6. 

3 Darwin's Zoonomia, vol. i, p. 181, 3d edit. 


may be learned from the following definition of the same author: 
"The word idea has various meanings in the writers of meta- 
physic. It is here used simply for those notions of external things 
which our organs of sense bring us acquainted with originally; 
and is defined, a contraction, or motion, or configuration of the 
fibres, which constitute the immediate organ of sense." 4 Mr. 
Hume, who was less of a physiologist than Dr. Darwin, has 
made use of a language by no means so theoretical and arbi- 
trary, but still widely removed from the simplicity and precision 
essentially necessary in studies, where everything depends on 
the cautious use of terms. "Belief," according to him, is "a lively 
idea related to or associated with a present impression." 5 "Mem- 
ory is the faculty by which we repeat our impressions, so as 
that they retain a considerable degree of their first vivacity, and 
are somewhat intermediate betwixt an idea and an impression." 6 
According to the views of Dr. Reid, the terms which express 
the simple powers of the mind, are considered as unsusceptible 
of definition or explanation; the words Feeling, for example, 
Knowledge, Will, Doubt, Belief, being, in this respect, on the 
same footing with the words Green or Scarlet, Sweet or Bitter. 
To the names of these mental operations, all men annex some 
notions more or less distinct; and the only way of conveying to 
them notions more correct, is by teaching them to exercise their 
own powers of reflection. The definitions quoted from Hume and 
Darwin, even if they were more unexceptionable in point of 
phraseology, would, for these reasons, be unphilosophical, as 
attempts to simplify what is incapable of analysis; but as they 
are actually stated, they not only envelop truth in mystery, but 
lay a foundation, at the very outset, for an erroneous theory. 
It is worth while to add, that of the two theories in question, 
that of Darwin, how inferior soever, in the estimation of com- 
petent judges, as a philosophical work, is by far the best calcu- 
lated to impose on the very wide circle of readers, by the 

*lbid., vol. i, pp. 11, 12. 

5 Treatise on Human Nature, Part III, sect, vii, Vol. I, p. 172, orig. 

*Ibid., Part I, sect. iii. Vol. I, p. 23, seq. 


mixture it exhibits of crude and visionary metaphysics, with 
those important facts and conclusions which might be expected 
from the talents and experience of such a writer, in the present 
advanced state of medical and physiological science. The ques- 
tions which have been hitherto confined to a few, prepared for 
such discussions by habits of philosophical study, are thus sub- 
mitted to the consideration, not only of the cultivated and en- 
lightened minds which adorn the medical profession, but of the 
half-informed multitude who follow the medical trade; nor is 
it to be doubted, that many of these will give the author credit, 
upon subjects of which they feel themselves incompetent to 
judge, for the same ability which he displays within their own 
professional sphere. The hypothetical principles assumed by 
Hume are intelligible to those only who are familiarized to the 
language of the schools; and his ingenuity and elegance, capti- 
vating as they are to men of taste and refinement, possess slight 
attractions to the majority of such as are most likely to be mis- 
led by his conclusions. . . . 

2. To allege, that in this circumscription of the field of our 
inquiries concerning the mind, there is any tendency to repress 
a reasonable and philosophical curiosity, is a charge no less un- 
founded than the former; inasmuch as every physical inquiry 
concerning the material world is circumscribed by limits pre- 
cisely analogous. In all our investigations, whatever their subject 
may be, the business of philosophy is confined to a reference of 
particular facts to other facts more general; and our most suc- 
cessful researches must at length terminate in some law of 
nature, of which no explanation can be given. In its application 
to Dr. Reid's writings, this objection has, I think, been more 
pointedly directed against his reasonings concerning the process 
of nature in Perception; a part of his writings which (as it is 
of fundamental importance in his general system) he has 
laboured with peculiar care. The result is, indeed, by no means 
flattering to the pride of those theorists who profess to explain 
everything; for it amounts to an acknowledgment, that after all 
the lights which anatomy and physiology supply, the informa- 
tion we obtain by means of our senses, concerning the existence 


and the qualities of matter, is no less incomprehensible to our 
faculties, than it appears to the most illiterate peasant; and that 
all we have gained is a more precise and complete acquaintance 
with some particulars in our animal economy— highly interesting 
indeed when regarded in their proper light, as accessions to our 
physical knowledge, but, considered in connexion with the 
philosophy of the mind, affording only a more accurate state- 
ment of the astonishing phenomena which we would vainly 
endeavour to explain. This language has been charged, but most 
unjustly and ignorantly, with mysticism; for the same charge 
may be brought, with equal fairness, against all the most im- 
portant discoveries in the sciences. It was in truth the very 
objection urged against Newton, when his adversaries con- 
tended, that gravity was to be ranked with the occult qualities 
of the schoolmen, till its mechanical cause should be assigned; 
and the answer given to this objection by Sir Isaac Newton's 
commentator, Mr. Maclaurin, may be literally applied, in the 
instance before us, to the inductive philosophy of the human 

The opponents of Newton, finding nothing to object to his ob- 
servations and reasonings, pretended to find a resemblance be- 
tween his doctrines and the exploded tenets of the scholastic 
philosophy. They triumphed mightily in treating gravity as an 
occult qualitv, because he did not pretend to deduce this princi- 
ple fully from its cause. ... I know not that ever it was made 
an objection to the circulation of the blood, that there is no small 
difficulty in accounting for it mechanically. They, too, who first 
extended gravity to air, vapour, and to all bodies round the 
earth, had their praise; though the cause of gravity was as 
obscure as before, or rather appeared more mysterious, after 
they had shown, that there was no body found near the earth, 
exempt from gravity, that might be supposed to be its cause. 
Why, then, were his admirable discoveries, bv which this prin- 
ciple was extended over the universe, so ill relished by some 
philosophers? The truth is, he had, with great evidence, over- 
thrown the boasted schemes by which they pretended to unravel 
all the mysteries of nature; and the philosophy he introduced, 
in place of them, carrying with it a sincere confession of our 


being far from a complete and perfect knowledge of it, could 
not please those who had been accustomed to imagine them- 
selves possessed of the eternal reasons and primary causes of 
all things. 

It was, however, no new thing that this philosophv should 
meet with opposition. All the useful discoveries that were made 
in former times, and particularly in the seventeenth century, 
had to struggle with the prejudices of those who had accustomed 
themselves not so much as to think, but in a certain systematic 
way; who could not be prevailed on to abandon their favourite 
schemes, while they were able to imagine the least pretext for 
continuing the dispute. Every art and talent was displayed to 
support their falling cause; no aid seemed foreign to them that 
could in am- manner annoy their adversary; and such often was 
their obstinacy, that truth was able to make little progress, till 
they were succeeded by younger persons who had not so strongly 
imbibed their prejudices. (Account of Newton's Discoveries.) 

These excellent observations are not the less applicable to 
the subject now under consideration, that the part of Dr. Reid's 
writings which suggested the quotation, leads only to the cor- 
rection of an inveterate prejudice, not to any new general con- 
clusion. It is probable, indeed (now that the ideal theory has 
in a great measure disappeared from our late metaphysical 
systems), that those who have a pleasure in detracting from the 
merits of their predecessors, may be disposed to represent it as 
an idle waste of labour and ingenuity, to have entered into a 
serious refutation of an hypothesis at once gratuitous and incon- 
ceivable. A different judgment, however, will be formed by such 
as are acquainted with the extensive influence which, from the 
earliest accounts of science, this single prejudice has had in 
vitiating almost every branch of the philosophy of the mind; 
and who, at the same time, recollect the names of the illustrious 
men by whom, in more modern times, it has been adopted as 
an incontrovertible principle. It is sufficient for me to mention 
those of Berkeley, Hume, Locke, Clarke, and Newton. To the 
two first of these, it has served as the basis of their sceptical 
conclusions, which seem indeed to follow from it as necessary 
consequences; while the other repeatedly refer to it in their 


reasonings, as one of those facts concerning the mind, of which 
it would be equally superfluous to attempt a proof or a refuta- 

I have enlarged on this part of Dr. Reid's writings the more 
fully, as he was himself disposed, on all occasions, to rest upon 
it his chief merit as an author. In proof of this, I shall transcribe 
a few sentences from a letter of his to Dr. (James) Gregory, 
dated 20th August 1790. 

It would be want of candour not to own, that I think there is 
some merit in what you are pleased to call my Philosophy; but I 
think it lies chieflv in having called in question the common 
theory of Ideas or Images of things in the mind being the only 
objects of thought; a theory founded on natural prejudices, and 
so universally received as to be interwoven with the structure 
of language. Yet were I to give you a detail of what led me 
to call in question this theoiy, after I had long held it as self- 
evident and unquestionable, you would think, as I do, that 
there was much of chance in the matter. The discovery was 
the birth of time, not of genius; and Berkeley and Hume did 
more to bring it to light than the man that hit upon it. I think 
there is hardly anything that can be called mine in the philosophy 
of the mind, which does not follow with ease from the detec- 
tion of this prejudice. 

I must, therefore, beg of you most earnestly to make no 
contrast in my favour to the disparagement of my predecessors 
in the same pursuit. I can truly say of them, and shall alwavs 
avow, what you are pleased to say of me, that but for the 
assistance I have received from their writings, I never could 
have wrote or thought what I have done. 

3. Somewhat connected with the last objection, are the cen- 
sures which have been so frequently bestowed on Dr. Reid, for 
an unnecessary and unsystematical multiplication of original or 
instinctive principles. 

In reply to these censures, I have little to add to what I have 
remarked on the same topic, in the Philosophy of the Human 
Mind. 7 That the fault which is thus ascribed to Dr. Reid has 

1 Elements, Vol. I, Chap, i, sect. 3; Works, Vol. II, p. 108, seq. 


been really committed by some ingenious writers in this part of 
the island, I most readily allow; nor will I take upon me to 
assert, that he has, in no instance, fallen into it himself. Such 
instances, however, will be found, on an accurate examination 
of his works, to be comparatively few, and to bear a very trifling 
proportion to those, in which he has most successfully and 
decisively displayed his acuteness, in exposing the premature 
and flimsv generalizations of his predecessors. 

A certain degree of leaning to that extreme to which Dr. 
Reid seems to have inclined, was, at the time when he wrote, 
much safer than the opposite bias. From the earliest ages, the 
sciences in general, and more particularly the science of the 
human mind, have been vitiated by an undue love of simplicity; 
and, in the course of the last century, this disposition, after hav- 
ing been long displayed in subtle theories concerning the Active 
Powers, or the Principles of Human Conduct, has been directed 
to similar refinements with respect to the Faculties of the Under- 
standing, and the Truths with which they are conversant. Mr. 
Hume himself has coincided so far with the Hartleian school, 
as to represent the "principle of union and cohesion among our 
simple ideas as a kind of attraction, of as universal application 
in the Mental world as in the Natural;" 8 and Dr. Hartley, with 
a still more sanguine imagination, looked forward to an era, 
"when future generations shall put all kinds of evidences and 
inquiries into mathematical forms; reducing Aristotle's ten cate- 
gories, and Bishop Wilkin's forty summa genera, to the head of 
quantity alone, so as to make mathematics and logic, natural 
history and civil history, natural philosophy and philosophy of 
all other kinds, coincide omni ex parte." 9 

It is needless to remark the obvious tendency of such pre- 
mature generalizations to withdraw the attention from the study 
of particular phenomena; while the effect of Reid's mode of 
philosophizing, even in those instances where it is carried to an 
excess, is to detain us, in this preliminary step, a little longer 
than is absolutely necessary. The truth is, that when the phenom- 

8 Treatise of Human Nature, Vol. I, p. 30 (orig. ed. ). 

9 Hartley, On Man, p. 207, 4to edition, London, 1791. 


ena are once ascertained, generalization is here of comparatively 
little value, and a task of far less difficulty than to observe facts 
with precision, and to record them with fairness. 

In no part of Dr. Reid's writings, I am inclined to think, 
could more plausible criticisms be made on this ground, than in 
his classification of our Active Principles; but even there, the 
facts are always placed fully and distinctly before the reader. 
That several of the benevolent affections which he has stated 
as ultimate facts in our constitution, might be analyzed into the 
same general principle differently modified, according to circum- 
stances, there can, in my opinion, be little doubt. This, however 
(as I have elsewhere observed), 10 notwithstanding the stress 
which has been sometimes laid upon it, is chiefly a question of 
arrangement. Whether we suppose these affections to be all ulti- 
mate facts, or some of them to be resolvable into other facts 
more general, they are equally to be regarded as constituent 
parts of human nature; and, upon either supposition, we have 
equal reason to admire the wisdom with which that nature is 
adapted to the situation in which it is placed. The laws which 
regulate the acquired perceptions of Sight, are surely as much 
a part of our frame, as those which regulate any of our original 
perceptions; and, although they require, for their development, 
a certain degree of experience and observation in the individual, 
the uniformity of the result shows, that there is nothing arbitrary 
nor accidental in their origin. In this point of view, what can be 
more philosophical, as well as beautiful, than the words of Mr. 
Ferguson, that natural affection springs up in the soul of the 
mother, as the milk springs in her breast, to furnish nourishment 
to her child!" "The effect is here to the race," as the same author 
has excellently observed, "what the vital motion of the heart 
is to the individual, too necessary to the preservation of nature's 
works, to be entrusted to the precarious will or intention of those 
most nearly concerned." u 

The question, indeed, concerning the origin of our different 

10 Outlines of Moral Philosophy, pp. 70, 80. Second edition. Edinburgh, 
1801. (Supra, Works, Vol. VI, pp. 21, 13.) 

11 Principles of Moral and Political Science, Part I, chap, i, sect. 3. 


affections, leads to some curious analytical disquisitions, but is of 
very subordinate importance to those inquiries which relate to 
their laws, and uses, and mutual references. In many ethical 
systems, however, it seems to have been considered as the most 
interesting subject of disquisition which this wonderful part of 
our frame presents. . . . 

4. The criticisms which have been made on what Dr. Reid 
has written concerning the intuitive truths which he distinguishes 
by the title of Principles of Common Sense, would require a more 
ample discussion than I can now bestow on them; not that the 
importance of these criticisms (of such of them, at least, as I 
have happened to meet with) demands a long or elaborate 
refutation; but because the subject, according to the view I wish 
to take of it, involves some other questions of great moment and 
difficulty, relative to the foundations of human knowledge. Dr. 
Priestley, the most formidable of Dr. Reid's antagonists, has 
granted as much in favour of this doctrine as it is worth while 
to contend for on the present occasion. "Had these writers," he 
observes with respect to Dr. Reid and his followers, "assumed, 
as the elements of their Common Sense, certain truths which 
are so plain that no man could doubt of them (without entering 
into the ground of our assent to them), their conduct would 
have been liable to very little objection. All that could have been 
said would have been, that, without any necessity, they had 
made an innovation in the received use of a term. For no person 
ever denied that there are self-evident truths, and that these 
must be assumed as the foundation of all our reasoning. I never 
met with any person who did not acknowledge this, or heard 
of any argumentative treatise that did not go upon the supposi- 
tion of it." 12 After such an acknowledgment, it is impossible to 
forbear asking (with Dr. Campbell), "What is the great point 
which Dr. Priestley would controvert? Is it, whether such self- 
evident truths shall be denominated Principles of Common 
Sense, or be distinguished by some other appellation?" 13 

That the doctrine in question has been, in some publications, 

12 Examination of Dr. Reid's Inquiry, &c, p. 119. 

13 Philosophy of Rhetoric, Vol. I, p". 111. See Note E. 


presented in a very exceptionable form, I most readily allow; nor 
would I be understood to subscribe to it implicitly, even as it 
appears in the works of Dr. Reid. It is but an act of justice to 
him, however, to request, that his opinions may be judged of 
from his own works alone, not from those of others who may 
have happened to coincide with him in certain tenets, or in 
certain modes of expression and that, before any ridicule be 
attempted on his conclusions concerning the authority of Com- 
mon Sense, his antagonists would take the trouble to examine in 
what acceptation he has employed that phrase. 

The truths which Dr. Reid seems, in most instances, dis- 
posed to refer to the judgment of this tribunal, might, in my 
opinion, be denominated more unexceptionably, "Fundamental 
Laws of Human Belief." 14 They have been called by a very 
ingenious foreigner (M. Trembley of Geneva), but certainly 
with a singular infelicity of language, Prejuges Legitimes. Of 
this kind are the following propositions: I am the same person 
today that I was yesterday; The material world Jias an existence 
independent of that of percipient beings; There are other intel- 
ligent beings in the universe beside myself; The future course 
of nature will resemble the past. Such truths no man but a 
philosopher ever thinks of stating to himself in words; but all 
our conduct and all our reasonings proceed on the supposition 
that they are admitted. The belief of them is essential for the 
preservation of our animal existence; and it is accordingly coeval 
with the first operations of the intellect. 

One of the first writers who introduced the phrase Common 
Sense into the technical or appropriate language of logic, was 
Father Buffier, in a book entitled, Traite des Primieres Verites. 
It has since been adopted by several authors of note in this 
country, particularly by Dr. Reid, Dr. Oswald, and Dr. Beattie; 
by all of whom, however, I am afraid, it must be confessed, it 
has been occasionally employed without a due attention to pre- 
cision. The last of these writers uses it to denote that power 
by which the mind perceives the truth of any intuitive proposi- 

14 Elements, Vol. II, chap. i. section 2; supra, Works, Vol. Ill, p. 45. 


tion; whether it be an axiom of abstract science, or a statement 
of some fact resting on the immediate information of conscious- 
ness, or perception, or of memory, or one of those fundamental 
laws of belief which are implied in the application of our fac- 
ulties to the ordinary business of life. The same extensive use of 
the word may, I believe, be found in the other authors just 
mentioned. But no authority can justify such a laxity in the 
employment of language in philosophical discussions; for, if 
mathematical axioms be (as they are manifestly and indisput- 
ably) a class of propositions essentially distinct from the other 
kinds of intuitive truth now described, why refer them all 
indiscriminately to the same principle in our constitution? If 
this phrase, therefore, be at all retained, precision requires that 
it should be employed in a more limited acceptation; and, ac- 
cordingly, in the works under our consideration, it is appropri- 
ated most frequently, though by no means uniformly, to that 
class of Intuitive Truths which I have already called "Funda- 
mental Laws of Belief." When thus restricted, it conveys a no- 
tion, unambiguous at least, and definite; and, consequently, the 
question about its propriety or impropriety turns entirely on the 
coincidence of this definition with the meaning of the word as 
employed in ordinary discourse. Whatever objections, therefore, 
may be stated to the expression as now defined, will apply to 
it with additional force when used with the latitude which has 
been already censured. 

I have said, that the question about the propriety of the 
phrase Common Sense, as employed by philosophers, must be de- 
cided by an appeal to general practice. For although it be allow- 
able and even necessary for a philosopher, to limit the 
acceptation of words which are employed vaguely in common 
discourse, it is always dangerous to give to a word a scientific 
meaning essentially distinct from that in which it is usually 
understood. It has, at least, the effect of misleading those who 
do not enter deeply into the subject; and of giving a paradoxi- 
cal appearance to doctrines, which, if expressed in more unex- 
ceptionable terms, would be readily admitted. 

It appears to me that this has actually happened in the 


present instance. The phrase Common Sense, as it is generally 
understood, is nearly synonymous with Mother-wit; denoting 
that degree of sagacity (depending partly on original capacity, 
and partly on personal experience and observation) which qual- 
ifies an individual for those simple and essential occupations 
which all men are called on to exercise habitually by their com- 
mon nature. In this acceptation, it is opposed to those mental 
acquirements which are derived from a regular education and 
from the study of books; and refers, not to the speculative con- 
victions of the understanding, but to that prudence and dis- 
cretion which are the foundation of successful conduct. Such 
is the idea which Pope annexes to the word, when, speaking of 
good sense (which means only a more than ordinary share of 
common sense), he calls it 

. . . the gift of Heaven, 

And though no science, fairly worth the seven. 

To speak, accordingly, of appealing from the conclusions of 
philosophy to common sense, had the appearance, to title-page 
readers, of appealing from the verdict of the learned to the voice 
of the multitude; or of attempting to silence free discussion, 
by a reference to some arbitrary and undefinable standard, 
distinct from any of the intellectual powers hitherto enumerated 
by logicians. Whatever countenance may be supposed to have 
been given by some writers to such an interpretation of this 
doctrine, I may venture to assert, that none is afforded by the 
works of Dr. Reid. The standard to which he appeals is neither 
the creed of a particular sect, nor the inward light of enthusi- 
astic presumption, but that constitution of human nature with- 
out which all the business of the world would immediately cease; 
and the substance of his argument amounts merely to this, that 
those essential laws of belief, to which sceptics have objected 
when considered in connexion with our scientific reasonings, 
are implied in every step we take as active beings; and if called 
in question by any man in his practical concerns, would expose 
him universally to the charge of insanity. 


Concerning the Fundamental Laws 
of Human Belief 

By Dugald Stewart 

This selection is from The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart, Vol. 
Ill, Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, Vol. II, pp. 
36-38 and 40-45. (See the editor's note, p. 82.) Instead of naming 
the elemental constituents of the human mind "the principles of com- 
mon sense," as Reid had done, Stewart calls them '"the fundamental 
laws of human belief," because of an ambiguity which he points 
out in the word "principle." 

There is an ambiguity in the word principle. In its proper 
acceptation, it seems to me to denote an assumption (whether 
resting on fact or on hypothesis) upon which, as a datum, a 
train of reasoning proceeds; and for the falsity or incorrect- 
ness of which no logical rigour in the subsequent process can 
compensate. Thus the gravity and the elasticity of the air are 
principles of reasoning in our speculation about the barom- 
eter. ... In a sense perfectly analogous to this, the definitions 
of geometry (all of which are merely hypothetical) are the first 
principles of reasoning in the subsequent demonstrations, and 
the basis on which the whole fabric of the science rests. 

I have called this the proper acceptation of the word, be- 
cause it is that in which it is most frequently used by the best 
writers. It is also most agreeable to the literal meaning which 
its etymology suggests, expressing the original point from which 
our reasoning sets out or commences. 

Dr. Reid often uses the word in this sense, as, for example, 
in the following sentence: "From three or four axioms, which 
he calls regulae philosophanili, together with the phenomena 
observed by the senses, which he likewise lai/s down as first 
principles, Newton deduces, by strict reasoning, the proposi- 


tions contained in the third book of his Principia, and in his 

On other occasions, he uses the same word to denote those 
elemental truths (if I may use the expression) which are virtu- 
ally taken for granted or assumed in every step of our reasoning, 
and without which, although no consequences can be directly 
inferred from them, a train of reasoning would be impossible. Of 
this kind, in mathematics are the axioms, or (as Mr. Locke 
and others frequently call them) the maxims; in physics, a 
belief of the continuance of the Laws of Nature; in all our 
reasonings, without exception, a belief in our own identity, and 
in the evidence of memory. Such truths are the last elements into 
which reasoning resolves itself when subjected to a metaphysi- 
cal analysis, and which no person but a metaphysician or a 
logician ever thinks of stating in the form of a proposition, or 
even of expressing verbally to himself. It is to truths of this 
description that Locke seems in general to apply the name of 
maxims; and, in this sense, it is unquestionably true, that no 
science (not even geometry) is founded on maxims as its first 

In one sense of the word principle, indeed, maxims may be 
called principles of reasoning; for the words principles and ele- 
ments are sometimes used as synonymous. Nor do I take upon 
me to say that this mode of speaking is exceptionable. All that 
I assert is, that they cannot be called principles of reasoning, 
in the sense which has just now been defined; and that accuracy 
requires that the word on which the whole question hinges, 
should not be used in both senses in the course of the same 
argument. It is for this reason that I have employed the phrase 
principles of reasoning on the one occasion, and elements of 
reasoning on the other. 

It is difficult to find unexceptionable language to mark dis- 
tinctions so completely foreign to the ordinary purposes of 
speech; but, in the present instance, the line of separation is 
strongly and clearly drawn by this criterion— that from princi- 
ples of reasoning consequences may be deduced; from what I 
have called elements of reasoning, none ever can. 


A process of logical reasoning has been often likened to a 
chain supporting a weight. If this similitude be adopted, the 
axioms or elemental truths now mentioned may be compared to 
the successive concatenations which connect the different links 
immediately with each other; the 'principles of our reasoning re- 
semble the hook, or rather the beam, from which the whole 
is suspended. . . . 

It is by the immediate evidence of consciousness that we 
are assured of the present existence of our various sensations, 
whether pleasant or painful; of all our affections, passions, hopes, 
fears, desires, and volitions. It is thus, too, we are assured of 
the present existence of those thoughts which, during our wak- 
ing hours, are continually passing through the mind, and of all 
the different effects which they produce in furnishing employ- 
ment to our intellectual faculties. 

According to the common doctrine of our best philosophers, 
it is by the evidence of consciousness we are assured that we 
ourselves exist. The proposition, however, when thus stated, is 
not accurately true; for our own existence (as I have elsewhere 
observed) is not a direct or immediate object of consciousness, 
in the strict and logical meaning of that term. We are conscious 
of sensation, thought, desire, volition; but we are not conscious 
of the existence of Mind itself; nor would it be possible for 
us to arrive at the knowledge of it (supposing us to be created 
in the full possession of all the intellectual capacities which 
belong to human nature), if no impression were ever to be made 
on our external senses. The moment that, in consequence of such 
an impression, a sensation is excited, we learn two facts at 
once— the existence of the sensation, and our own existence as 
sentient beings— in other words, the very first exercise of con- 
sciousness necessarily implies a belief, not only of the present 
existence of what is felt, but of the present existence of that 
which feels and thinks: or (to employ plainer language) the 
present existence of that being which I denote by the words I 
and myself. Of these facts, however, it is the former alone of 
which we can properly be said to be conscious, agreeably to 
the rigorous interpretation of the expression. A conviction of 


the latter, although it seems to be so inseparable from the exer- 
cise of consciousness that it can scarcely be considered as poste- 
rior to it in the order of time, is yet (if I may be allowed to 
make use of a scholastic distinction) posterior to it in the order 
of nature; not only as it supposes consciousness to be already 
awakened by some sensation, or some other mental affection; 
but as it is evidently rather a judgment accompanying the exer- 
cise of that power, than one of its immediate intimations con- 
cerning its appropriate class of internal phenomena. It appears 
to me, therefore, more correct to call the belief of our own exist- 
ence a concomitant or accessory of the exercise of conscious- 
ness, than to say, that our existence is a fact falling under the 
immediate cognizance of consciousness, like the existence of the 
various agreeable or painful sensations which external objects 
excite in our minds. 

That we cannot, without a very blamable latitude in the use 
of words, be said to be conscious of our personal identity, is a 
proposition still more indisputable; inasmuch as the very idea 
of personal identity involves the idea of time, and consequently 
presupposes the exercise not only of consciousness, but of mem- 
ory. The belief connected with this idea is implied in every 
thought and every action of the mind, and may be justly re- 
garded as one of the simplest and most essential elements of 
the understanding. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive either an 
intellectual or an active being to exist without it. It is, however, 
extremely worthy of remark, with respect to this belief, that, 
universal as it is among our species, nobody but a metaphysi- 
cian ever thinks of expressing it in words, or of reducing into 
the shape of a proposition the truth to which it relates. To the 
rest of mankind, it forms not an object of knowledge; but a 
condition or supposition, necessarily and unconsciously involved 
in the exercise of all their faculties. On a part of our constitu- 
tion, which is obviously one of the last or primordial elements 
at which it is possible to arrive in analyzing our intellectual 
operations, it is plainly unphilosophical to suppose, that any 
new light can be thrown by metaphysical discussion. All that 
can be done with propriety, in such cases, is to state the fact. 


And here, I can not help taking notice of the absurd and 
inconsistent attempts which some ingenious men have made, to 
explain the gradual process by which they suppose the mind 
to be led to the knowledge of its own existence, and of that 
continued identity which our constitution leads us to ascribe 
to it. How (it has been asked) does a child come to form the 
very abstract and metaphysical idea expressed by the pronoun 
I or moi? In answer to this question, I have only to observe, that 
when we set about the explanation of a phenomenon, we must 
proceed on the supposition that it is possible to resolve it into 
some more general law or laws with which we are already 
acquainted. But, in the case before us, how can this be expected, 
by those who consider that all our knowledge of mind is de- 
rived from the exercise of reflection; and that every act of this 
power implies a conviction of our own existence as reflecting 
and intelligent beings? Every theory, therefore, which pretends 
to account for this conviction, must necessarily involve that sort 
of paralogism which logicians call a petitio principii; inasmuch 
as it must resolve the thing to be explained into some law or 
laws, the evidence of which rests ultimately on the assumption 
in question. From this assumption, which is necessarily implied 
in the joint exercise of consciousness and memory, the philos- 
ophy of the human mind, if we mean to study it analytically, 
must of necessity set out; and the very attempt to dig deeper 
for its foundation, betrays a total ignorance of the logical rules, 
according to which alone it can ever be prosecuted with any 
hopes of success. 

It was, I believe, first marked by M. Prevost of Geneva (and 
the remark, obvious as it may appear, reflects much honour on 
his acuteness and sagacity), that the inquiries concerning the 
mind, founded on the hypothesis of the animated statue— in- 
quiries which both Bonnet and Condillac professed to carry 
on analytically— were in truth altogether synthetical. To this 
criticism it may be added, that their inquiries, in so far as 
they had for their object to explain the origin of our belief of 
our own existence, and of our personal identity, assumed, as 
the principles of their synthesis, facts at once less certain and 


less familiar than the problem which they were employed to 

Nor is it to the metaphysician only that the ideas of identity 
and of personality are familiar. Where is the individual who has 
not experienced their powerful influence over his imagination, 
while he was employed in reflecting on the train of events which 
have filled up the past history of his life; and on that internal 
world, the phenomena of which have been exposed to his own 
inspection alone? On such an occasion, even the wonders of 
external nature seem comparatively insignificant; and one is 
tempted (with a celebrated French writer) in contemplating the 
spectacle of the universe, to adopt the words of the Doge of 
Genoa, when he visited Versailles— "Ce qui metonne le plus id, 
c'est de my voir." 

The belief which all men entertain of the existence of the 
material world (I mean their belief of its existence independ- 
ently of that of percipient beings) and their expectation of the 
continued uniformity of the laws of nature, belong to the same 
class of ultimate or elemental laws of thought, with those which 
have been just mentioned. The truths which form their objects 
are of an order so radically different from what are commonly 
called truths, in the popular acceptation of that word, that it 
might perhaps be useful for logicians to distinguish them by 
some appropriate appellation, such, for example, as that of met- 
aphysical or transcendental truths. They are not principles or 
data (as will afterwards appear) from which any consequence 
can be deduced; but form a part of those original stamina of 
human reason, which are equally essential to all the pursuits 
of science, and to all the active concerns of life. 

I shall only take notice farther, under this head, of the 
confidence which we must necessarily repose in the evidence 
of memory (and, I may add, in the continuance of our personal 
identity) when we are employed in carrying on any process 
of deduction or argumentation— in following out, for instance, 
the steps of a long mathematical demonstration. In yielding our 
assent to the conclusion to which such a demonstration leads, 
we evidently trust to the fidelity with which our memory has 


connected the different links of the chain together. The refer- 
ence which is often made, in the course of a demonstration, to 
propositions formerly proved, places the same remark in a light 
still stronger; and shows plainly that, in this branch of knowl- 
edge, which is justly considered as the most certain of any, the 
authority of the same laws of belief which are recognised in the 
ordinary pursuits of life, is tacitly acknowledged. Deny the 
evidence of memory as a ground of certain knowledge, and you 
destroy the foundations of mathematical science as completely 
as if you were to deny the truth of the axioms assumed by 

The foregoing examples sufficiently illustrate the nature of 
that class of truths which I have called Fundamental Laws of 
Human Belief, or Primary Elements of Human Reason. A variety 
of others, not less important, might be added to the list: such, 
for example, as our belief of the existence of efficient causes; 
our belief of the existence of other intelligent beings besides 
ourselves, etc. . . . 

From such propositions as these— I exist; I am the same per- 
son today that I was yesterday; the material world has an exist- 
ence independent of my mind; the general laws of nature will 
continue, in future, to operate uniformly as in time past— no 
inference can be deduced, any more than from the intuitive 
truths prefixed to the Elements of Euclid. Abstracted from other 
data, they are perfectly barren in themselves; nor can any pos- 
sible combination of them help the mind forward one single 
step in its progress. It is for this reason that, instead of calling 
them, with some other writers, first principles, I have distin- 
guished them by the title of Fundamental laws of belief; the 
former word seeming to denote, according to common usage, 
some fact, or some supposition, from which a series of conse- 
quences may be deduced. 


Dugald Stewart on Hindu Philosophy 

By Daniel Sommer Robinson 

The chief source of Dugald Stewart's knowledge of Hindu 
Philosophy was the writings of the distinguished orientalist and 
philologist, Sir William Jones ( 1746-94 ) whose Works were pub- 
lished in six volumes in London (1799). (Citations from his 
Works quoted below will be abbreviated with the initials WJ, 
and those from The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart will 
be abbreviated WS.) Sir William Jones founded The Asiatic 
Society in Calcutta in 1784, and served as its president until 
his untimely death in 1794, at the age of forty-eight years. 

The reader should keep in mind the fact that Sir William 
Jones was not a philosopher but a philologist and a jurist who 
had a sympathetic interest in and a deep understanding of 
Hindu culture, whereas Dugald Stewart was an original thinker 
with an extensive knowledge of the whole history of Western 
philosophy and was especially well informed on the entire de- 
velopment of British Empiricism. Nevertheless, Stewart had a 
genuine respect for the scholarly achievements of Sir William 
Jones, who translated into English and interpreted a good deal 
of classic Hindu literature. However, as we shall see presently, 
Stewart did not always agree with these interpretations. 

Perhaps what aroused Stewart's interest most was the claim 
of Sir William Jones that Hindu Philosophy contained a con- 
ception of the material world that was identical with that of 
Bishop Berkeley and David Hume. He quotes from the Works 
of Jones the following three interesting passages that elaborate 
this conception: 

The difficulties attending the vulgar notion of material sub- 
stances, induced manv of the wisest among the ancients, and 
some of the most enlightened among the moderns, as well as 
the Hindu philosophers, to believe that the whole creation was 
rather an energy than a work, by which the infinite mind, who 


is present at all times, and in all places, exhibits to his creatures 
a set of perceptions like a wonderful picture, or piece of music, 
always varied, yet always uniform. (WS, Vol. V, p. 180. From 
the Introduction to a translation of some Hindu verses.) 

The Vedantis, unable to form a distinct idea of brute matter 
independent of mind, or to conceive that the work of supreme 
goodness was left a moment to itself, imagine that the Deity is 
ever present to his work, and constantly supports a series of 
perceptions, which in one sense they call illusory, though they 
can not but admit the reality of all created forms, as far as the 
happiness of creatures can he affected by them. (WS, Vol. V, p. 
108, from WJ, Vol. I, p. 249. The italics are Stewart's.) 

The word Maya, or Delusion, has a subtile and recondite 
sense in the Vedanta philosophy, where it signifies the system 
of perceptions, whether of secondary or of primary qualities, 
which the Deity was believed by Epicharmus, Plato, and manv 
truly pious men, to raise, by his omnipresent spirit, in the minds 
of his creatures; but which had not, in their opinion, any exist- 
ence independent of mind. (WS, Vol. V, p. 108, from WJ, Vol. 
I, p. 231.) 

Elsewhere, in Note B to his chapter entitled "Fundamental 
Laws of Belief," Stewart makes this significant comment: "The 
prevalence in India of an opinion bearing some resemblance 
to the Berkeleian Theory, may be urged as an objection to the 
reasoning in the text; but, on examination, this resemblance will 
be found much slighter than has been generally apprehended. 
On this point the following passage from Sir William Jones is 
decisive; and the more so, as he himself has fallen into the 
common mistake of identifying the Hindu belief with the con- 
clusion of Berkeley and Hume." (WS, Vol. Ill, p. 370.) 

He then quotes a fourth passage from Sir William Jones: 

The fundamental tenet of the Vedanti school . . . consisted, not 
in denying the existence of matter, that is, of solidity, impene- 
trability, and extended figure (to deny which ivould be lunacy) 
but in correcting the popular notion of it, and in contending, 
that it has no essence independent of mental perception, that 
existence and perceptibility are convertible terms, that external 
appearances and sensations are illusory, and ivould vanish into 


nothing, if the divine energy, which alone sustains them, were 
suspended but far a moment; an opinion which Epicharmus 
and Plato seem to have adopted, and which has been main- 
tained in the present century with great eloquence, but with 
little public applause; partly because it has been misunderstood, 
and partly because it has been misapplied by the false reasoning 
of some unpopular writers who are said to have disbelieved in 
the moral attributes of God, whose omnipresence, wisdom, and 
goodness, are the basis of the Indian philosophy. I have not 
sufficient evidence on the subject to profess a belief in the doc- 
trine of the Vedanta, which human reason alone could, perhaps, 
neither fully demonstrate, nor fully disprove; but it is manifest 
that nothing can be farther removed from impiety than a system 
wholly built on the purest devotion. (WS, Vol. Ill, pp. 370 f., 
from WJ, Vol. I, pp. 165-66. Most of the italics are Stewart's.) 

Commenting on this fourth passage, Stewart first points out 
that Jones confuses two conceptions of the relation of the mate- 
rial universe to the Deity. He writes: "Sir William Jones here 
evidently confounds the system which represents the material 
universe as not only at first created, but as every moment 
upheld by the agency of Divine Power, with that of Berkeley 
and Hume, which, denying the distinction between primary and 
secondary qualities, asserts that extension, figure, and impene- 
trability, are not less inconceivable without a percipient mind 
than our sensations of heat and cold, sounds and odours. Accord- 
ing to both systems, it may undoubtedly be said that the material 
universe has no existence independent of mind; but it ought 
not to be overlooked, that in the one, this word refers to the 
Creator, and in the other, to the created percipient." (WS, Vol. 
Ill, p. 371n.) 

In justification of Sir William Jones, it must be admitted that 
Bishop Berkeley was himself, at least to some extent, guilty of 
this same confusion. In his celebrated new proof for the exist- 
ence of God he argues that the world of nature is kept in 
existence by God's acting as a perceiver, when creaturely per- 
ceivers are not functioning, but he also argues that the material 
world operates according to natural laws ordained by the Cre- 
ator. Stewart does not name a representative of the view that 


the material universe is "every moment upheld by the agency 
of divine power," but he might have named Jonathan Edwards. 
In his A History of American Philosophy, Professor Schneider 
designates this theory "Edwards' doctrine of omnificence" and 
adds "Edwards' idealism was opposed to Berkeley's." In sup- 
port of this he quotes Edwards as follows: 1 

God's preserving of created things in being, is perfectly equiva- 
lent to a continued creation, or to his creating those things out 
of nothing at each moment of their existence. . . . For it does not 
at all necessarily follow, that because there was sound, or light, 
or colour, or resistance, or gravity, or thought, or consciousness, 
or any other dependent thing the last moment, that therefore 
there shall be the like at the next. All dependent existence what- 
soever is in a constant flux, ever passing and returning; renewed 
every moment, as the colours of bodies are every moment re- 
newed by the light that shines upon them; and all is constantlv 
proceeding from God, as light from the sun. In him we live, 
and move, and have our being. 

Presumably Schneider would agree with Stewart that Berkeley's 
conception of the relation of the material world to Deity was 
not precisely what Sir William Jones says it was. Berkeley was 
not an advocate of omnificence— the doctrine that God contin- 
ually and from moment to moment recreates the material world 
out of nothing. In Siris he explicitly denies that God has sense 
organs as do creaturely percipients: "There is no sense, nor 
sensory, nor anything like a sense or sensory in God. . . . God 
knoweth all things as pure mind or intellect but nothing by 
sense, nor in nor through a sensory." (Siris, paragraph 289.) 
Hence, Stewart was right in denying that Berkeley's idealism 
was identical with that of the Hindus. 

Stewart has another interesting argument against this iden- 
tification. Referring to the tenets of the Hindus quoted above, 
he writes: "These tenets were rather articles of a theological 
creed than of a philosophical system; or, at least, the two were 

1 Herbert W. Schneider, A History of American Philosophy (New York: 
Columbia University Press), p. 20. See the interesting article "Other Dates," 
by R. J. Butler, in Mind, Jan., 1959, pp. 16-33. 


so blended together, as sufficiently to account for the hold 
which, independently of any refined reasoning, they had taken 
of the popular belief." (WS, Vol. Ill, p. 371.) In support of this 
contention, Stewart quotes a personal letter he received from 
Sir James Mackintosh, who was Recorder of Bombay when he 
wrote Stewart: 2 

... I had vesterdav a conversation with a young Bramin of no 
great learning, the son of the Pundit (or assessor for Hindu law) 
of mv Court. He told me that, besides the myriads of gods 
whom their creed admits, there was one whom they know by 
the name of Brim, or the great one, without form or limits, 
whom no created intellect could make any approach towards 
conceiving; that in reality, there were no trees, no houses, no 
land, no sea, but all without was Maia, or illusion, the act of 
Brim; that whatever we saw or felt was only a dream, or, as 
he expressed it in his imperfect English, thinking in one's sleep; 
and that the reunion of the soul to Brim, from whom it originally 
sprung, was the awakening from the long sleep of finite existence. 
All this you have heard and read before as Hindu speculation. 
What struck me was, that speculations so refined and abstruse 
should, in a long course of ages, have fallen through so great a 

2 Sir James Mackintosh (1765-1832) was the author of important 
essays. He was Stewart's choice for his successor to the Chair of Moral 
Philosophy in the University of Edinburgh when Dr. Thomas Brown was 
elected. Sir James would not accept the position. According to the Dic- 
tionary of National Biography, Sir James was "a friend and in some degree 
a disciple," but he had "apparently not heard Stewart's lectures at Edin- 
burgh" (Vol. XII, p. 617). Sir James Mackintosh was appointed to the 
Recordership at Bombay in 1803. sailed on February 14, 1804, and arrived 
on May 26. He served in this position until 1811. He was knighted at the 
time of his appointment. On November 26, 1805, he founded the Literary 
Society of Bombay. Noah Porter devotes two paragraphs to Sir James 
Mackintosh as an important member of the Scottish School, following his 
account of Dr. Thomas Brown. Originally written for the 7th ed. of the 
Encyclopaedia Britannica (1830-42), Sir James Mackintosh's Dissertation 
on the Progress of Ethical Philosophy was separately published in 1836. It 
was severely criticised by James Mill in his Fragment on Mackintosh, 1835. 
A second edition of the Dissertation was published in 1862 (Edinburgh, 
Adam and Charles Black), with a preface by the editor, William Whewell, 
who charges James Mill with "captiousness, contumely and buffoonery." 


space as that which separates the genius of their original in- 
ventor from the mind of this weak and unlettered man. The 
names of these inventors have perished; but their ingenious 
and beautiful theories, blended with the most monstrous super- 
stitions, have descended to men very little exalted above the 
most ignorant populace, and are adopted by them as a sort 
of articles of faith, without a suspicion of their philosophical 
origin, and without the possibility of comprehending any part 
of the premises from which they were deduced. I intend to in- 
vestigate a little the history of these opinions, for I am not 
altogether without apprehension, that we may all the while 
be mistaking the hyperbolical effusions of mystical piety, for 
the technical language of a philosophical system. Nothing is 
more usual than for fervent devotion to dwell so long and so 
warmly on the meanness and worthlessness of created things, and 
on the all-sufficiency of the Supreme Being, that it slides in- 
sensibly from comparative to absolute language, and, in the 
eagerness of its zeal to magnify the Deity, seems to annihilate 
everything else. To distinguish between the very different im- 
port of the same words in the mouth of a mystic and of a sceptic, 
requires more philosophical discrimination than most of our San- 
scrit investigators have hitherto shown. (WS, Vol. Ill, pp. 

No doubt the fact that Stewart made such use of this letter 
from his friend Sir James Mackintosh, is itself sufficient proof 
that he was in full accord with its contents, but this is made 
still more evident by his referring to the letter as "the author- 
ity of so enlightened and philosophical an observer." However, 
whether he was in complete agreement with the theory of his 
friend or not, he is certainly correct in his own opinion that the 
tenets of Hindu philosophy have a theological origin, or, as he 
puts it, are the outcome of "high theological speculation." 

On the other hand, the Berkeley-Hume idealism is "deduced 
as a sceptical consequence from a particular hypothesis con- 
cerning the origin of our knowledge, inculcated by the School- 
men, and adopted by Locke and his followers." (WS, Vol. V, 
p. 107.) This is the empirical hypothesis clearly expressed in 
the maxim of Francis Bacon, "All our knowledge is derived from 


experience," but still more clearly in Diderot's rule: "Every 
expression which cannot find an external and a sensible object 
to which it can thus establish its affinity, is destitute of signifi- 
cation." Stewart quotes this rule from Diderot's works, and adds 
the following comment in a footnote: "In this philosophical rule, 
Diderot goes much further than Hume, in consequence of the 
different interpretation which he has given to Locke's principle." 
( See WS, Vol. V, p. 125. ) With the contemporary logical positiv- 
ists, this rule has become the fixed dogma of empirical verifica- 
tion. Stewart sharply contrasts the Hindu principle with this 
empirical principle in these words: "The scepticism of Hume, on 
the contrary, proceeds entirely on a scholastic hypothesis con- 
cerning perception, which, when followed out to its logical con- 
sequences, leaves no evidence for the existence either of the 
Divine Mind or of any other; nor, indeed, for that of anything 
whatever, but of our own impressions and ideas." (WS, Vol. V, 
p. 109.) Thus on this important issue Sir William Jones and 
Dugald Stewart were more or less at loggerheads. 

In his third presidential discourse delivered before the Asi- 
atic Society in Calcutta on February 2, 1786, Sir William Jones 
claimed that most of the philosophy of the Greeks was bor- 
rowed from the Hindus. He said: 

In more retired scenes, in groves, and in seminaries of learning, 
we may perceive the Brahmans and the Sermanes mentioned 
by Clemens, disputing in the forms of logic, or discoursing on the 
vanity of human enjoyments, on the immorality of the soul, her 
emanation from the eternal mind, her debasement, wanderings, 
and final union with her source. The six philosophical schools, 
whose principles are explained in the Dersana Sastra, comprise 
all the metaphysics of the old Academy, the Stoa and the Ly- 
ceum; nor is it possible to read the Vedanta, or the many fine 
compositions in illustration of it, without believing, that Pvthag- 
oras and Plato derived their sublime theories from the same 
fountain with the sages of India. (WJ, Vol. I, p. 28. Quoted by 
Stewart, WS, Vol. Ill, p. 225.) 

And in his eleventh anniversary discourse delivered on Febru- 
ary 20, 1794, he made the following statement: "Here I cannot 


refrain from introducing a singular tradition, which prevailed, 
according to the well-informed author of the Dabistan, in the 
Panjab, and in several Persian provinces, that, among other 
Indian curiosities, which Callisthenes transmitted to his uncle, 
was a technical system of logic, which the Brahmans had com- 
municated to the inquisitive Greek, and which the Mohamme- 
dan writer supposes to have been the ground-work of the famous 
Aristotelian method. If this be true," continues Sir William 
Jones— and none will dispute the justness of his remark— "it is 
one of the most interesting facts that I have met with in Asia." 
(WJ, Vol. I, p. 165. Quoted by Stewart, WS, Vol. Ill, pp. 225 
f. ) Both of these passages are quoted by Stewart in support of 
his contention that Aristotle borrowed a considerable portion 
of Iris logic from the Hindus. Stewart was a severe critic of 
Aristotelian Logic, and his use of these two passages to justify 
his criticisms is of considerable interest. But before quoting Sir 
William Jones he called attention to the fact that "Father Pons, 
a Jesuit missionary, was (I believe) the first person who com- 
municated to the learned of Europe the very interesting fact, 
that the use of the Syllogism is, at this day, familiarly known 
to the Brahmins of India." (WS, Vol. Ill, p. 225.) The letter 
of Father Pons is dated 1740. Stewart says that "this informa- 
tion does not seem to have attracted much attention in England, 
until it was corroborated by the indisputable testimony of Sir 
William Jones," who said "I can only assure you, that I have 
frequently seen perfect syllogisms in the philosophical writings 
of the Brahmins, and have often heard them used in their verbal 
controversies." (WJ, Vol. I, p. 165.) 
Stewart writes: 

Of the soundness of the opinion concerning the origin of the 
Greek philosophy, to which these quotations give the sanction 
of an authority so truly respectable, our stock of facts is as vet 
too scanty to enable us to form a competent judgment. Some 
may perhaps think, that the knowledge of the Aristotelian logic 
which exists in India, may be sufficiently accounted for by the 
Mohammedan conquests; and by the veneration in which Aris- 
totle was held, from a very early period, by the followers of the 


prophet. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged, that 
this part of Aristotle's work contains some intrinsic evidence of 
aid borrowed from a more ancient school. . . . Should future 
researches verify the suspicions of Sir William Jones and others, 
that the first rudiments of the art were imported into Greece 
from the East, it would contribute to vindicate his [Aristotle's] 
character against that charge of plagiarism, and of unfairness 
towards his predecessors, which has been admitted even by 
some who speak with the most unbounded reverence of his 
intellectual endowments. (WS, Vol. Ill, pp. 226 f. and 229.) 

It is quite obvious that Dugald Stewart wanted to believe what 
Sir William Jones said about Aristotle's borrowings from the 
Hindu thinkers, but he certainly did so with some important 
qualifications, and he also added in parentheses this confession 
about his suggestions: "which I hazard with much diffidence." 
But, it should also be emphasized that Sir William Jones intro- 
duced this idea as "a singular tradition." Presumably he was 
unable to verify it. 

Stewart makes use of a number of other passages from the 
writings of Sir William Jones, which do not especially deal with 
Hindu Philosophy, but which are here briefly summarized for 
the benefit of readers who may have a special interest in one 
or more of these items. The two scholars are in complete agree- 
ment as to the fallacies of etymologies, and Stewart quotes 
Jones at some length in support of his critique of etymological 
researches that are especially erudite and concerned with lan- 
guages known only to a few experts (WS, Vol. IV, p. 67). They 
are also in full accord in thinking that the close similarities 
between the Greek and the Sanscrit, and between the Sanscrit 
and the Latin languages indicate that all three originated from 
an older language that no longer exists, Latin being considered 
as the oldest of the Greek dialects. (WS, Vol. V. p. 78-105.) 

In his discussion of the idea of Sublimity, Stewart calls atten- 
tion to the almost universal fact that when men worship they 
look "upwards towards the objects of their worship," and he 
quotes Sir William Jones' Dissertation on the Gods of Greece, 
Italy, and India in support of this argument (WS, Vol. V, pp. 


291 ff. ). Stewart also refers to Sir William Jones' translation of 
the Hindu Hymn to Narroijona (WS, Vol. VII, p. 34), and he 
quotes Jones as opposed to his own theory that monotheism 
arose from polytheism because of Biblical Revelation (WS, Vol. 
VII, p. 79). Sir William Jones found in the Lows of Manu a 
notable modification of the law of usury which exempted adven- 
tures at sea from usury, and Stewart makes effective use of this 
in his discussions of commerce and trade (WS, Vol. IX, p. 152). 
The Collected Works of Dugald Stewart are worthy of the 
attention of every student of philosophy. His numerous refer- 
ences to the writings of Sir William Jones are of special signifi- 
cance in that they indicate how extensive was the influence of 
this distinguished orientalist on the thinking of one of the ablest 
of his British contemporaries. The intercultural contact and fer- 
tilization of ideas that we find expressed in these writings un- 
doubtedly were of momentous importance to both cultures. 
Surely the writings of Stewart and Jones deserve a great deal 
more attention from serious students than they have thus far 


Thomas Brown 

The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

Thomas Brown, M. D., born at Kirkmabreck, Scotland, 1778. 
Student of Law, then of Medicine, Edinburgh. M. D., 1803. 
Associate Professor with Dugald Stewart in Moral Philosophy, 
1810. Died 1820. 

He was distinguished as an author in other departments than 
philosophy. At the age of 18 he published an able criticism, or 
"Observations on the Zoonomia of E. Darwin," and at different 
periods of his life various poetical compositions. In 1804, Edin- 
burgh, he gave to the public An Inquiry into the Relation of 
Cause and Effect, 2 ed., 1806, 3d, with additions, 1818. After 
his death, Lectures on the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 
1820, 4 vols. 8vo, Edinburgh. Compare Accounts of the Life and 
Writings of Thomas Brown, M.D., by David Welch, Edinburgh, 

Dr. Brown was distinguished for acute and subtle analysis 
and eloquent exposition. His Inquiry, etc., was his most elabo- 
rate work, and is written in an eloquent but sober diction. His 
Lectures were published after his death, in the form in which 
they were delivered to his classes. They were designed for a 
somewhat miscellaneous and susceptible audience, which was 
ready to respond to brilliant rhetorical exhibitions. Being com- 
posed by a writer distinguished for a luxuriant imagination no 
less than for philosophical acuteness, it is not surprising that 


their diction should be diffuse and ornate, and that they abound 
in original passages of splendid declamation as well as in copious 
extracts from eminent writers. The effect of these lectures during 
the lifetime of their author was very decided, and the influence 
upon the course of subsequent speculation of some of the doc- 
trines which he set forth so impressively has been most manifest. 
Brown retains the doctrine insisted on by Reid and Stewart, that 
there are certain original intuitions which in a system of knowl- 
edge take the place of unproved first principles. Such are the 
belief in causation and "the irresistible feeling of identity" of 
the self, or soul. He contends that the Scottish philosophers 
extended far too widely the number of their first principles, and 
he followed the example of Stewart, of resolving into frequent 
and inseparable associations many beliefs which had been con- 
sidered as original and incapable of analysis. He rejects the 
doctrine of consciousness which had been accepted by Reid 
and Stewart, and in this was followed by Hamilton, at least 
in part. He contemplates the phenomena of the soul as succes- 
sive states, which he usually designates as feelings, and by intro- 
ducing this appellation he practically set aside the distinction 
between knowledge and belief on the one hand, and sensation 
and emotion on the other. The term suggestion, which had been 
used by Berkeley and Reid in a special metaphysical meaning 
of a priori affirmation, as well as in the ordinary sense of associ- 
ation, he first limits to the last in what he calls simple sugges- 
tion, and then enlarges it as relative suggestion, so as to include 
all the processes in which comparison or judgment is involved, 
and thus provides, in a way of his own, for the suggestion— i.e., 
the relative suggestion— of being, self, space, and time. But com- 
parison and all the forms of relative suggestion are still feelings 
of likeness and unlikeness, etc. Brown's analysis of the processes 
of sense-perception is acute and subtle; and he attaches great 
importance to the muscular sense, not only for the special sen- 
sations which it gives, but also for its supposed significance in 
the generation of the relations of externality and of extension. 
His views of the generation or origination of the relations of 
space by means of relations of time, and of externality as the 


joint products of the muscular sensations and causality— i.e., of 
uniform succession— are not unlike those of the school of Her- 
bart, and have been reproduced in part by John Stuart Mill. 

In respect to causation, he agrees with Hume, that the rela- 
tion itself is resolved into invariable succession, but resists en- 
tirely his resolution of our belief in its universal presence into 
customary associations, contending that the belief is a first truth 
or intuitive belief. In his analyses of psychological phenomena, 
he makes a more liberal use than Stewart of the associative 
power; and the influence of Brown's terminology and of his 
methods and conclusions has been potent in the formation and 
consolidation of the Associational Psychology— represented by J. 
Mill, J. S. Mill, Alexander Bain, and Herbert Spencer. 

Brown's philosophy is characterized by Sir J. Mackintosh as 
"an open revolt against the authority of Reid." He openly dis- 
puted the merit of Reid as to his supposed exposure and refu- 
tation of the ideal theories of sense-perception; he limited the 
number and importance of the principles of common sense, and 
greatly extended the sphere of association, in evolving appar- 
ently simple and indecomposable products from manifold ele- 
ments of experience and feeling. In these particulars his 
teachings and influence differ from those of Reid. 

The Inquiry into the Relation of Cause and Effect appears 
in its modified and completed form in the third edition in 1818. 
The first edition, 1804, was limited to an examination into the 
theory of Hume. The second, 1806, entered into the discussion 
of the correct theory and its applications. The third edition is 
divided into 4 Parts: 1st, "On the Real Import of the Relation 
of Cause and Effect," in which a cause is defined as "that which 
immediately precedes any change, and which existing at any 
time in similar circumstances has been always, and will be 
always, immediately followed by a similar change." Brown justi- 
fies this definition by considering all the classes of events to 
which the appellation is applied, whether these events are bodily 
or mental. Among the latter, special importance has been at- 
tached to the volitions, and Brown in analyzing the volitions 
is led to resolve them into permanent and prevailing desires 


consequent upon deliberation. Part 2 treats of the sources of 
delusion with respect to this relation. The author first asserts 
that substances are nothing diverse from their qualities, although 
we are tempted to regard the two as diverse. Language by 
its metaphors increases the illusion, as when we speak of the 
bond of connection between cause and effect. The conception of 
power as latent is next noticed. The exercise of power is, in 
fact, only a name for the presence of certain antecedent circum- 
stances. Our senses are so imperfect as to fail to reveal many of 
these circumstances. Part 3 discusses the circumstances, in which 
the belief of the relation arises. Experience is the first named, 
the author contending that only after the experience of an ante- 
cedence and succession of two events does the belief occur- 
that one event is the cause of another. This belief is not the 
result of reasoning, nor does it proceed from the a priori axiom 
of the sufficient reason or any other axiom which expresses inde- 
pendent certainty concerning the physical forces. Part 4 is de- 
voted to Mr. Hume's theory of our belief of this relation. He 
notices first the relation of Hume's special theory of causation 
to his general theory of the relation of ideas to impressions. He 
next inquires why frequent experiences seem to be necessary 
to ground the belief in a special connection of two events as 
cause and effect. To this question he replies that they are neces- 
sary only to enable us to separate the events from all superfluous 
circumstances; and that customary occurrence, which Plume con- 
tends is the only explanation of the belief, is only necessary to 
enable us to effect this separation. But the way in which this 
customary occurrence contributes to this belief is not by effect- 
ing a ready transition from one idea to another, as Hume con- 

Next, Dr. Brown seeks to show that Dr. Reid errs in accept- 
ing Hume's idea of power, viz., that of invariable antecedence; 
while Dr. Reid is right in ascribing the belief in this necessary 
connection to an intuitive principle. He concludes with an argu- 
ment and with notes, to show that his own doctrine of causa- 
tion is entirely consistent with belief in God and the possibility 
of miraculous events, both of which Hume denies. 


The Lectures on the Philosophy of the Mind contain Dr. 
Brown's psychological analyses, as given in the lecture-room. Dr. 
Brown was a physician, and he contemplated writing a treatise 
on the physiology of the mind. He devotes several preliminary 
lectures to the consideration of the methods appropriate to physi- 
cal inquiry. He then proceeds to inquire how far the same 
methods are applicable to the mind. To this question he an- 
swers: Of mind and matter our knowledge is only relative— i.e., 
we know only the phenomena of either; of the essence and pos- 
sible capacities of either we know nothing. "Of the essence of 
the mind we know nothing but in relation to the states or feel- 
ings that form or have formed our momentary consciousness." 
But yet "it is the same individual mind which in intellectual 
investigation is at once the object and the observer." "But the 
noble endowment of memory with which the Creator has blessed 
us solves all the mystery of this singular paradox." By this 
faculty philosophy is possible; the mind, though simple, is ex- 
tended and multiplied, the relation of thought to thought be- 
comes possible, and we class the phenomena of spirit as we do 
the phenomena of matter. In Lecture 10, the author observes, 
that by the constitution of our nature we ascribe the phenomena 
of matter and of mind to one permanent subject. Our business 
is to analyze the phenomena of mind, as we analyze the phenom- 
ena of matter; but there is a difference, in that what we call a 
complex phenomenon of the mind is in itself indivisible. In 
Lecture 12 he treats of consciousness as equivalent "to the 
whole series of states of the mind, whatever the individual mo- 
mentary states may be," and denies that there is a power by 
which the mind knows its own states, or that to this power the 
name of consciousness is applied, as is implicitly held by Locke 
and explicitly by Reid and Stewart. The direct experience of 
any mental state again does not imply the self as its subject. 
This comes only after the remembrance of several states "by 
that irresistible law of our nature which impresses us with the 
conviction of our identity." This belief in mental identity is de- 
fended against objections, and in this connection the doctrine 
of first truths, or truths of intuition generally, is distinctly em- 


phasized. Lecture 16 he devotes to the classification of mental 
phenomena. After considering and criticizing that commonly re- 
ceived, viz., the intellectual and active powers of understanding 
and will, he proposes a division into external and internal affec- 
tions, i.e., the affections occasioned by external agents and those 
which spring from the mind's overt activity. The internal affec- 
tions he again subdivides into the intellectual states and the 
emotions. The external affections also include those which are 
commonly termed sensations. These sensations he subjects to a 
special analysis, more extended and apparently more subtle than 
any to be found in any previous English psychology. He begins 
with smell, which gives sensation only, or at the utmost, a sen- 
sation, with the suggestion of a cause, but nothing further- 
neither externality nor extension. The same is true of hearing and 
taste. The belief of the external and the extended world he 
limits to touch only. In analyzing the phenomena of this sense, 
he groups its affections into the two classes of resistance and 

The experience of resistance he ascribes, not to the tactual 
experiences, but to those of the muscular sense. But even these 
would be regarded as purely subjective, did they not occur in 
a different causal (i.e., time) order. Such a different order of 
cause and effects might be conceived in the act of stretching 
the arm, with or without pressure against a resisting object, and 
this would suggest the existence of an object differing from the 
mind itself— i.e., as external. Extension is analyzed by a resort to 
the relations of time— i.e., to the successive experiences of the 
muscular and other sensations. In connection with this analysis 
he considers— Lectures 26, 7— Reid's supposed confutation of the 
Ideal system in which he charges him with ignorance of the 
system as originally held and with ignorance that it had been 
abandoned. (Cf. Hamilton's refutation of this critique, Ed. Re- 
view, vol. 52, No. 103. Discussion II.) Lectures 27-28 are 
devoted to an analysis of the Feelings ascribed to Vision, in 
which Brown denies that the experience of visual sensations 
necessarily suggests extension in any of its relations, but con- 
tends that the internal and apparently inseparable connection 


of the two is to be explained by the process of association. 

The Internal Intellectual states of the mind, Brown holds, 
are "all referable to two generic susceptibilities— those of simple 
suggestion and relative suggestion." Simple suggestion is equiva- 
lent to association as usually conceded. Relative suggestion oc- 
curs on the perception of two objects, when we have a feeling 
of any relation between them. The laws of simple suggestion are 
of two classes, primary and secondary. The primary laws are 
three, viz., Resemblance, Contrast, and nearness of Place and 
Time. The secondary laws are those which respect the circum- 
stances which modify the action of the simple laws. Of these 
there are nine, as the original feelings are (1) of longer or 
shorter continuance, (2) more or less lively, (3) more or less 
often present, (4) more or less recent, (5) more or less pure 
from mixture, (6) variable with original constitution, (7) do. 
with temporary emotions, (8) do. with changes in the body, 
(9) do. with previous habits. To simple suggestion are reduced 
certain supposed Faculties of the mind, as Conception, Memory, 
Imagination, and Habit. 

The feelings of Relative Suggestion are excited by objects 
which are co-existing and successive. Objects are really co- 
existent as those which are material, and seemingly such as the 
mental. To both belong the relations of position, resemblance, 
or difference, proportion, degree, and comprehension. The re- 
lation of resemblance explains the possibility of general notions, 
and of classification, the exercise of judgment, and Reasoning. 
Brown professes to be himself a Conceptualist, though he prefers 
the appellations Notionist or Relationist, and charges against the 
Nominalist that he overlooks the relation of resemblance. The 
syllogistic method he criticizes as setting up what is a form of 
successful proof to others as the method of universal investi- 
gation. Reasoning is but a succession of judgments. The process 
is but a series of relative suggestions, of which the subjects are 
mutually related. We reason from particulars to particulars, 
when these mutual relations are discerned, as truly as from gen- 
erals to particulars. 

The Relations of succession, when they are invariable, com- 



prehend all that we usually recognize as the relations of causes 
and effects. They provide for all the judgments of causality. The 
exclusive occupation of the mind with certain relative sugges- 
tions, is the same with the process usually called abstraction. 

The next class of internal states of mind are the emotions. 
These differ from the intellectual feelings "by that peculiar viv- 
idness of feeling which every one understands, but which it is 
impossible to express by any verbal definition," etc. The Emo- 
tions are classed as Immediate, Retrospective, and Prospective. 
The immediate emotions are subdivided into those which do 
not, and those which do, involve moral affections. Under the 
first are Cheerfulness and Melancholy, Wonder at what is 
strange, Languor at what is tedious, Beauty and Deformity, Sub- 
limity, Ludicrousness. Under the second are feelings distinctive 
of Vice and Virtue, Love and Hate, Sympathy, Pride, and Hu- 
mility. The Retrospective Emotions having relations to others 
are Anger and Gratitude. The Retrospective Emotions which 
have reference to ourselves are Regret and its opposite, and 
Remorse and its opposite. 

The Prospective Emotions comprehend the desire for Con- 
tinued Existence, the desire of Pleasure, the desire of Action, 
the desire of Society, the desire of Knowledge, the desire of 
Power in the two forms of Ambition and of Power, the desire 
of the Affection of others, the desire of Glory, the desire of 
Happiness of others, the desire of Evil to others. 

The ethical theory of Brown starts with the principle that 
moral distinctions are original— i.e., that there are certain feel- 
ings which are followed by approbation and the opposite. The 
foresight of certain actions not yet performed as respectively 
approvable and the contrary explains the sense of obligation; 
when we think of such actions as already past, we conceive of 
them as having merit. 1 

1 In his Realistic Universe (Revised Edition), p. 84, John Elof Boodin 
accepts Brown's modification of Rcid's theory of sense perception. (Editor's 
note. ) 


The Sceptical System of Berkeley and 
Hindu Philosophy 

By Thomas Brown 

This selection is from Thomas Brown's Lectures on the Philosophy 
of Mind (in four vols.; Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1851), 
Vol. II, pp. 14-22. Brown claims that Berkeley is really a sceptic 
even though he thought his philosophy was "an antidote to scepti- 
cism." Compare Brown's discussion of Sir William Jones' comments 
with that of Stewart above, pp. 180 ff. The title has been supplied. 

If there were, indeed, any sceptic as to the existence of an 
external world, who could seriously profess that his practical 
conduct was in accordance with his speculative disbelief, we 
might very justly exercise, with respect to his own profession, 
that philosophic doubt or disbelief which he recommends. 
Pyrrho, the great founder of this philosophy, is, indeed, said to 
have acted so truly on his principles, that if a cart ran against 
him, or a dog attacked him, or if he came upon a precipice, 
he would not stir a foot to avoid the danger. "But his attend- 
ants," says Dr. Reid, "who, happily for him, were not so great 
sceptics, took care to keep him out of harm's way: so that he 
lived till he was ninety years of age." * In all these cases, we 
may safely take for granted that this venerable sceptic, when 
he exhibited himself with his train of domestics, knew, at least, 
as well as the spectators, the nature of the comedy which he was 
acting, for their entertainment and his own imagined glory; that 
he could discriminate, with perfect accuracy, the times when it 
would be safe, and the times when it would be unsafe, for him 
to be consistent; and that he would never feel, in so strong and 
lively a manner, the force of his own principles, as when he was 
either absolutely alone, or with attendants within a very few 
inches of the ground on which he was philosophizing. We are 

1 Reid's Inquiry into the Human Mind, chap, i, sect. 5. 


told, accordingly, that when his passions were too strongly 
roused to allow him to remember the part which he was acting, 
he entered with sufficient readiness into his native character of 
a mere human being. Of this, one ludicrous instance is recorded, 
in which his anger against his cook so completely got the better, 
both of his moral and physical philosophy, that, with the spit 
in his hand, and the meat on it, which had been roasting, he 
pursued him to the very market-place. Many stories of this sort, 
however, we may well suppose would be invented against 
philosophers of a class that at once challenged the opposition of 
the whole mob of mankind, and afforded subjects of that obvious 
and easy ridicule which the mob of mankind, even without 
the provocation of such a challenge, are always sufficiently ready 
to seize. 

Into a detail of the sceptical system of Berkeley it is unneces- 
sary to enter at any length; since, notwithstanding the general 
acuteness which its truly illustrious author has displayed in this, 
and in all his works, I cannot but consider his ideal system as 
presenting a very imperfect and inaccurate view, not merely of 
the real phenomena of the mind, but even of the sceptical argu- 
ment against the existence of matter. It was not as a sceptic, 
however, that this most devout and aimable of philosophers, to 
whom Pope scarcely paid a higher compliment than was strictly 
due, in ascribing to him "every virtue under heavens" 2 — it was 
not as a sceptic that he was desirous of being ranked. On the 
contrary, I have no doubt that his system seemed to him valu- 
able, chiefly for being, as he conceived, an antidote to scepti- 
cism; and that he was far less anxious to display acuteness than 
to expose the sophistry of materialism, and to present, as he 
thought, an additional argument for the existence of a divine 
omnipresent mind, which unquestionably it would have afforded, 
and an argument, too, it must be owned, completely irresistible, 
if our mere ideas were what he conceived them to be. These 
he evidently considered not as states of the individual mind, 
but as separate things existing in it, and capable of existing in 

2 "Epilogue to the Satires," Dial. II. v. 73. 


other minds, but in them alone; and it is in consequence of 
these assumptions that his system, if it were to be considered as 
a system of scepticism, is chiefly defective. But having, as he 
supposed, these ideas, and conceiving that they did not perish 
when they ceased to exist in his mind, since the same ideas 
recurred at intervals, he deduced, from the necessity which 
there seemed for some omnipresent mind, in which they might 
exist during the intervals of recurrence, the necessary existence 
of the Deity; and if, indeed, as he supposed, ideas be some- 
thing different from the mind itself, recurring only at intervals 
to created minds, and incapable of existing but in mind, the 
demonstration of some infinite omnipresent mind, in which they 
exist during these intervals of recurrence to finite minds, must 
be allowed to be perfect. The precise nature of the argument, 
and its demonstrative force, if the hypothetical circumstances, 
which Berkeley himself was far from considering as hypotheti- 
cal, be admitted, have not been sufficiently regarded by philos- 
ophers, when they express their astonishment that a system, 
which, if not scepticism, is, at least, so much akin to it, or so 
favourable, at least, to the general sceptical spirit, should yet 
have been brought forward, as its truly pious author informs us, 
for the express purpose of combating scepticism. He is not, 
indeed, always a very perspicuous unfolder of his own opinions; 
but, in a passage of his third Dialogue, the series of proposi- 
tions which I have now stated as constituting his demonstration, 
are delivered by himself with great distinctness and brevity. 
"When I deny," says Philonous to Hylas, "when I deny sensible 
things an existence out of the mind, I do not mean my mind in 
particular, but all minds. Now, it is plain they have an exist- 
ence exterior to my mind, since I find them, by experience, to be 
independent of it. There is, therefore, some other mind wherein 
they exist during the intervals between the times of my perceiv- 
ing them as likewise they did before my birth, and would do 
after my supposed annihilation. And as the same is true with 
regard to all other finite created spirits, it necessarily follows 
there is an Omnipresent Eternal Mind, which knows and com- 
prehends all things, and exhibits them to our view in such a 


manner, and according to such rules, as he himself hath or- 
dained, and are by us all termed the Laws of Nature." 3 

The existence of ideas as separate from the mind, and the 
permanent existence of these when they have ceased to exist in 
the individual mind, are evidently assumptions as gratuitous as 
the assumption of the external existence of matter itself could 
have been; or rather, the permanent and independent ideas are 
truly matter, under another name; and to believe that these 
foreign independent substances, which pass from mind to mind, 
exist in the mind, is not to intellectualize matter, but to material- 
ize intellect. A mind containing, or capable of containing, some- 
thing foreign within itself, and not merely one foreign substance, 
but a multitude of foreign substances at the same moment, is 
no longer that simple indivisible existence, which we termed 
spirit. Any of the elementary atoms of matter is, indeed, more 
truly spiritual; the very notion of recipiency of any kind being 
as little consistent with our notion of mind as the notion of hard- 
ness or squareness. 

The whole force of the pious demonstration, therefore, which 
Berkeley flattered himself with having urged irresistibly, is com- 
pletely obviated by the simple denial that ideas are anything 
more than the mind itself affected in a certain manner; since, 
in this case, our ideas exist no longer than our mind is affected 
in that particular manner which constitutes each particular idea; 
and to say that our ideas exist in the divine mind, would thus 
be to say, only, that our mind itself exists in the divine mind. 
There is not the sensation of colour in addition to the mind, 
nor the sensation of fragrance in addition to the mind, but, ac- 
cording to that juster view of the mental phenomena which I 
have repeatedly endeavoured to impress on you, the sensation 
of colour is the mind existing in a certain state, and the sensa- 
tion of fragrance is the mind existing in a different state. 

The most philosophic scepticism, as to the existence of ex- 
ternal things, is unquestionably that which is founded on this 
very view of the phenomena of the mind. All the terms which 

3 Three Dialogues, &c, pp. 109-10. 


we use to express our knowledge, sensations, perceptions, ideas, 
notions, propositions, judgments, intuitions, conclusions, or what- 
ever other terms we may employ to express particular varieties 
of thought, are significant, it may be said, and truly said, of 
states or affections of the mind, and of nothing more. What I 
term my perception of the colour, or softness, or shape, or frag- 
rance, or taste of a peach, is a certain state of my own mind: 
for my mind surely can be conscious only of its own feelings; 
or rather, as the consciousness of present feelings is a redund- 
ancy of language, my mind, affected in a certain manner, 
whether it be with what is termed sensation or knowledge, or 
belief, can still be nothing more than my mind itself affected 
in a certain manner— my mind itself existing in a certain state. 
Against this argument, I confess that I know no mere argument 
which can be adduced in opposition, any more than I know 
any mere argument which can be adduced against the strange 
conclusions that are most legitimately drawn from the doctrine 
of the infinite divisibility of matter, and various other physical 
and mathematical applications of the notion of infinity. In no 
one of these cases, however, do we feel our belief shaken; be- 
cause it is founded either on associations so early, and strong, 
and indissoluble, as those which we have been endeavouring 
to trace, or, if not on those, on principles of direct intuition, in 
that species of internal revelation which gives to reason itself, 
in the primary truths on which every argument proceeds, its 
divine authority; and we only smile at conclusions, in which it 
is impossible for us to find a single logical error, but which, from 
the constitution of our nature, it is physically impossible for us 
to admit, or to admit, at least, without an instant dissent, which 
renders our momentary logical admission as nugatory as if the 
direct existence of an external world had been established by 
the clearest logical demonstration. 

In one of the Anniversary Orations of Sir William Jones, of 
which the subject is the philosophy of the Asiatics, he informs 
us that a system of idealism, very similar to that of Berkeley, is 
to be found in the metaphysics of Hindustan. The fundamental 
tenet of one great school of the philosophers of that ancient 


land of philosophy, is the disbelief of the existence of matter; 
the phenomena of the seeming material universe being con- 
ceived by them to be only an illusive representation which the 
Deity presents to the mind (and which they distinguish by the 
name of Map ) : while the opposite species of scepticism is to be 
found in another sect of their philosophers, who disbelieve the 
existence of mind, and reduce all the phenomena of thought to 
material organization. The same subtlety and refinement of scep- 
ticism, which have led to the systems of materialism and ideal- 
ism in our Western World, are to be found, we are told, in 
the corresponding systems of the East. 4 

Why is it that we are struck with no common emotion on 
finding, in the metaphysics of that distant country, systems of 
opinions so similar to our own? Is it that the notion of the 
immense space which separates us, unites with our conception, 
and impresses us, as it were, with the omnipresence of our own 
intellectual nature— when we recognise, on scenes so remote, and 
in circumstances of society so different, the same thoughts, and 
doubts, and errors, which have perplexed, and occupied, and 
delighted ourselves? This recognition, in whatever circumstances 
it may occur, gives to us a feeling of more than kindred— a sort 
of identity with the universal nature of man, in all its times and 
places. The belief which others share with us seems to be our 
own belief, which has passed from each to each, or is present to 
all, like those permanent ideas of which Berkeley speaks, that 
quit one intellect to exist in another. We cannot separate the 
thought which we remember from the notion of the mind which 
we remember to have conceived it; and it seems to us, there- 
fore, not as if similar doubts and errors, but almost as if the very 
doubts and errors of our own mind, and its ardour of inquiry, 
and frequent disappointments, and occasional, but rare felicities 
of discovery, had spread and renewed themselves in a remote 
existence. It is this recognition of our common nature, which 
gives the chief interest to scenes that have been occupied with 
the passions of beings like ourselves. The mountains which the 

4 WJ, Vol. I, pp. 165-66, 4to Edit. 


Titans were fabled to have heaped up in their war against 
Jupiter, must have excited, even in the most devout believer of 
Grecian mythology, emotions far less ardent and immediate than 
the sight of the humbler cliffs, at which the small Spartan host, 
and their gallant leader, devoted themselves in the defensive 
war against the Persian invaders. The races of men may perish, 
but the remembrance of them still lives imperishable, and seems 
to claim kindred with us as often as we tread the same soil, or 
merely think of those who have trod it. 

Turn thy sight eastward, o'er the time-hush'd plains 
Now graves of vanish'd empire, once gleam'd o'er 
From flames on hallow'd altars, hail'd by hymns 
Of seers, awakeners of the worshipp'd Sun! 
Ask silent Tigris— Bid Euphrates tell 
Where is the grove-crown'd Baal to whose stern frown 
Bow'd haughty Babylon?— Chaldea, famed 
For star-taught sages— hard Phoenicia's sons, 
Fierce, fear-surmounting curbers of the deep, 
Who stretch'd a floating sceptre o'er the seas, 
And made mankind one empire?— Where is now 
Egypt's wide-homaged Isis? where the Thors, 
That shook the shakers of the Boman world? 5 

The very gods of all these countries have perished but the mor- 
tals who bent the knee before them still survive them in the 
immortality of our common nature— in that universal interest 
which gives to us a sort of intellectual existence in scenes and 
times the most remote, and makes the thoughts and emotions 
of others as it were a part of our own being— uniting the past, 
the present, and the future, and blending man with man wher- 
ever he is to be found. 

5 Aaron Hill's Free Thoughts on Faith, 220-27. 



The Nature of Consciousness 

By Thomas Brown 

This selection is from Lecture VII of Thomas Brown's Lectures on the 
Philosophy of Mind, Vol. I, pp. 294-303 and p. 303. 

In the systems of philosophy, which have been most generally 
prevalent, especially in this part of the island, consciousness has 
always been classed as one of the intellectual powers of the 
mind, differing from its other powers, as these mutually differ 
from each other. It is accordingly ranked by Dr. Reid, as sep- 
arate and distinct, in his catalogue of the intellectual powers; 
and he says of it, that "it is an operation of the understanding 
of its own kind, and cannot be logically defined. The objects 
of it are our present pains, our pleasures, our hopes, our fears, 
our desires, our doubts, our thoughts of every kind; in a word, 
all the passions, and all the actions and operations of our own 
minds, while they are present." And in various parts of his works, 
which it would be needless to quote, he alludes to its radical 
difference from the other powers of the mind, as if it were a 
point on which there could be no question. To me, however, I 
must confess, it appears, that this attempt to double, as it were, 
our various feelings, by making them not to constitute our con- 
sciousness, but to be the objects of it, as of a distinct intellectual 
power, is not a faithful statement of the phenomena of the mind, 
but is founded, partly on a confusion of thought, and still more 
on a confusion of language. Sensation is not the object of con- 
sciousness different from itself, but a particular sensation is the 
consciousness of the moment; as a particular hope, or fear, or 
grief, or resentment, or simple remembrance, may be the actual 
consciousness of the next moment. In short, if the mind of man, 
and all the changes which take place in it, from the first feeling 
with which life commenced, to the last with which it closes, 
could be made visible to any other thinking being, a certain 


series of feelings alone, that is to say, a certain number of suc- 
cessive states of the mind, would be distinguishable in it, form- 
ing, indeed, a variety of sensations, and thoughts, and passions, 
as momentary states of the mind, but all of them existing indi- 
vidually, and successively to each other. To suppose the mind 
to exist in two different states, in the same moment, is a manifest 
absurdity. To the whole series of states of the mind, then, what- 
ever the individual momentary successive states may be, I give 
the name of our consciousness— using that term, not to express 
any new state additional to the whole series (for to that, which 
is already the whole, nothing can be added, and the mind, as 
I have already said, cannot be conceived to exist at once in two 
different states) but merely as a short mode of expressing the 
wide variety of our feelings; in the same manner as I use any 
other generic word for expressing briefly the individual varieties 
comprehended under it. There are not sensations, thoughts, pas- 
sions, and also consciousness, any more than there is quadruped 
or animal, as a separate being, to be added to the wolves, tigers, 
elephants, and other living creatures, which I include under 
those terms. 

The fallacy of conceiving consciousness to be something dif- 
ferent from the feeling, which is said to be its object, has arisen, 
in a great measure, from the use of the personal pronoun 1, 
which the conviction of our identity, during the various feelings, 
or temporary consciousnesses of different moments, has led us 
to employ, as significant of our permanent self— of that being, 
which is conscious, and variously conscious, and which con- 
tinues, after these feelings have ceased, to be the subject of other 
consciousnesses, as transient as the former. 7 am conscious of 
a certain feeling, really means, however, no more than this— I 
feel in a certain manner, or, in other words, my mind exists in 
that state which constitutes a certain feeling; the mere existence 
of that feeling, and not any additional and distinguishable feel- 
ing that is to be termed consciousness, being all which is essen- 
tial to the state of my mind, at the particular moment of 
sensation; for a pleasure, or pain, of which we are not conscious, 
is a pleasure or pain, that, in reference to us at least, has no 


existence. But when we say, I am conscious of a particular feel- 
ing, in the usual paraphrastic phraseology of our language, 
which has no mode of expressing, in a single word, the mere 
existence of a feeling, we are apt, from a prejudice of grammar, 
to separate the sentient I and the feeling, as different— not dif- 
ferent, as they really are, merely in this respect, that the feeling 
is one momentary and changeable state of the permanent sub- 
stance I, that is capable of existing also, at other moments, in 
other states— but so radically different, as to justify our classing 
the feeling in the relation of an object, to that sentient principle 
which we call I— and an obejct to it, not in retrospect only, as 
when the feeling is remembered, or when it is viewed in rela- 
tion to other remembered feelings— but in the very moment of 
the primary sensation itself; as if there could truly be two 
distinct states of the same mind, at that same moment, one of 
which states is to be termed sensation, and the other different 
state of the same mind to be termed consciousness. 

To estimate more accurately the effect which this reference 
to self produces, let us imagine a human being to be born with 
his faculties perfect as in mature life, and let us suppose a 
sensation to arise for the first time in his mind. For the sake 
of greater simplicity, let us suppose the sensation to be of a kind 
as little complex as possible; such, for example, as that which 
the fragrance of the rose excites. If, immediately after this first 
sensation, we imagine the sentient principle to be extinguished, 
what are we to call that feeling which filled and constituted the 
brief moment of life? It was a simple sensation, and nothing 
more; and if only we say, or do not say, that the mind was 
conscious of the sensation— we shall convey precisely the same 
meaning; the consciousness of the sensation being, in that case, 
only a tautological expression of the sensation itself. There will 
be, in this first momentary state, no separation of self and the 
sensation— no little proposition formed in the mind, J feel or I 
am conscious of a feeling—but the feeling, and the sentient I, 
will, for the moment, be the same. It is this simple feeling, and 
this alone, which is the whole consciousness of the first moment; 
and no reference can be made of this to a self, which is inde- 


pendent of the temporary consciousness; because the knowledge 
of self, as distinct from the particular feeling, implies the re- 
membrance of former feelings— of feelings which, together with 
the present, we ascribe to one thinking principle; recognizing the 
principle, the self, the me, as the same, amid all its transient 
diversities of consciousness. 

Let us now, then, instead of supposing life, as in the former 
case, to be extinguished immediately after the first sensation, 
suppose another sensation to be excited, as, for instance, that 
which is produced by the sound of a flute. The mind either will 
be completely absorbed in this new sensation, without any 
subsequent remembrance— in which case the consciousness of 
the sensation, as in the case of the fragrance that preceded it, 
will be only another more paraphrastic expression of the sim- 
ple sensation— or the remembrance of the former feeling will 
arise. If the remembrance of the former feeling arises, and the 
two different feelings be considered by the mind at once, it 
will now, by that irresistible law of our nature, which impresses 
us with the conviction of our identity, conceive the two sen- 
sations, which it recognizes as different in themselves, to have 
yet belonged to the same being— that being, to which, when it 
has the use of language, it gives the name of self, and in re- 
lation to which it speaks, as often as it uses the pronoun I. 
The notion of self, as the lasting subject of successive transient 
feelings, being now, and not till now, acquired, through the 
remembrance of former sensations or temporary diversities of 
consciousness, the mind will often again, when other new sen- 
sations may have arisen, go through a similar process, being not 
merely affected with the particular momentary sensation, but 
remembering other prior feelings, and identifying it with them, 
in the general designation of self. In these circumstances, the 
memory of the past will often mingle with and modify the 
present; and, now, indeed, to form the verbal proposition, I 
am conscious of a particular sensation— since the very word 7 
implies that this remembrance and identification has taken 
place— may be allowed to express something more than the mere 
existence of the momentary sensation, for it expresses also that 


the mind, which now exists in the state of this particular sen- 
sation, has formerly existed in a different state. There is a 
remembrance of former feelings, and a belief that the present 
and the past have been states of one substance. But this belief, 
or in other words, this remembrance of former feelings, is so 
far from being essential to every thought or sensation, that in- 
numerable feelings every moment arise, without any such identi- 
fication with the past. They are felt, however, for this is 
necessarily implied in their existence; but they exist, as transient 
thoughts or sensations only, and the consciousness, which we 
have of them, in these circumstances, is nothing more than the 
thoughts or sensations themselves, which could not be thoughts 
or sensations if they were not felt. 

In the greater number of our successions of momentary feel- 
ings, then, when no reference is made to former states of the 
mind, the consciousness is obviously nothing more than the sim- 
ple momentary feeling itself as it begins and ceases; and when 
there is a reference to former states of the mind, we discover on 
analysis only a remembrance, like all our other remembrances, 
and a feeling of common relation of the past and the present 
affection of the mind to one permanent subject. It is the belief 
of our continued identity which involves this particular feeling 
of relation of past and present feelings: and consciousness, in 
this sense of the term, is only a word expressive of that belief. 

That the fragrance of a rose, the sound of a flute, and in 
general all the other objects of sense, might have excited pre- 
cisely the same immediate sensations as at present, Dr. Reid 
admits, though the belief of our personal identity had not been 
impressed upon us; for he ascribes this belief to an instinctive 
principle only, and acknowledges, that there is nothing in our 
sensations themselves, from which any such inference could be 
drawn by reason. If, then, this instinctive belief of identity had 
not been, as at present, a natural law of human thought, operat- 
ing irresistibly on the remembrance of our different feelings, we 
should have had no notion of self, of me, the sentient and 
thinking being, who exists at the present moment, and who 
existed before the present moment: and what, then, would 


have been the consciousness, accompanying, and different from, 
our sensations, when they merely flashed along the mind and 
vanished? The most zealous defender of consciousness, as a 
separate intellectual power, must surely admit, that, in such cir- 
cumstances, it would have been nothing more than sensation 
itself. It is the belief of our identity only, which gives us the 
notion of self, as the subject of various feelings, and it is the 
notion of self, as the subject of various former feelings, which 
leads us to regard the consciousness of the moment, as different 
from the sensation of the moment; because it suggests to us 
those former feelings, which truly were different from it, or at 
least that subject mind, which unquestionably existed before the 
present sensation. 

If it be said, that the faculty of consciousness is nothing more 
than this reference to the past, and consequent belief of identity, 
we may in that case very safely admit its existence; though the 
classification of it, as a peculiar intellectual power, would in that 
case be a most singular anomaly in arrangement, and would 
involve a very absurd, or at least a very awkward use of a term. 
To assert this signification of it, however, would be to admit 
every thing for which I have contended. But it certainly is 
not the sense which has been attached to it by philosophers; 
and indeed, in this sense, consciousness, instead of having for 
its objects, as Dr. Reid says, all "our present pains, our pleasures, 
our hopes, our fears, our desires, our doubts, our thoughts of 
every kind; in a word, all the passions, and all the actions and 
operations of our own minds, while they are present," would 
be limited to the comparatively few, of which the consideration 
of our personal identity forms a part. In far the greater number 
of our feelings, as I have already said, the sensation dies away, 
almost in the moment— not, indeed, without being enjoyed or 
suffered, but without any reference to self, as the subject of 
various feelings, or remembrance of any prior state of mind, 
as distinct from the present. The belief of our identity is surely 
not the only belief that arises from an instinctive principle; and 
if its existence entitle us, in our systematic arrangements, to the 
possession of a new intellectual power, every other belief that 


arises instinctively from a principle of our constitution, must give 
us a similar title to enlarge the catalogue of our faculties. The 
never-failing and instant faith, by which we expect, without 
the slightest doubt of the similarity of the future, that events 
will continue to follow each other, in the same order as at 
present— that bodies will fall to the ground, fire burn, food 
satisfy the craving of our appetite— that immediate intuitive 
principles of belief, on which all our foresight depends, and 
according to which we regulate our whole conduct in providing 
for the future, should certainly, in that case, be ascribed by us 
to some peculiar intellectual power, for which it would be easy 
to invent a name. It is not by any inference of our reason we 
believe that the sound of a flute which preceded the fragrance 
of a rose, and the fragrance of a rose which followed the 
sound of a flute, excited sensations that were states of the same 
identical mind; for there is nothing, in either of the separate 
sensations, or in both together, from which such an inference 
can be drawn; and yet, notwithstanding the impossibility of 
inferring it, we believe this at least as strongly as we believe 
any of the conclusions of our reasoning. In like manner, it is not 
by any inference of reason we believe, that fire will warm us 
tomorrow, as it has warmed us today; for there is nothing, in 
the fire of today, or in the sensation of warmth, considered 
as a mere sequence of it, from which the succession of a similar 
sensation to the fire of tomorrow can be inferred; yet we also 
rely on this future sequence, at least as strongly, as we believe 
any of the conclusions of our reasoning. In both cases the par- 
allel is complete; and, in both, the evidence of a particular in- 
tellectual faculty must consequently be alike— or in neither is 
there sufficient evidence of such a power. 

There is, indeed, one other sense, in which we often talk of 
our consciousness of a feeling, and a sense in which it must be 
allowed that the consciousness is not precisely the same as the 
feeling itself. This is, when we speak of a feeling, not actually 
existing at present, but past— as when we say, that we are con- 
scious of having seen, or heard, or done something. Such a use 
of the term, however, is pardonable only in the privileged loose- 


ness and inaccuracy of familiar conversation; the consciousness, 
in this case, being precisely synonymous with remembrance or 
memory, and not a power different from the remembrance. The 
remembrance of the feeling, and the vivid feeling itself, indeed, 
are different. But the remembrance, and the consciousness of 
the remembrance, are the same— as the consciousness of a sen- 
sation, and the sensation, are the same; and to be conscious that 
we have seen or spoken to any one, is only to remember that we 
have seen or spoken to him. 

Much of this very confusion with respect to memory, how- 
ever, I have no doubt, has been always involved in the asser- 
tion of a consciousness as a peculiar and distinct power of the 
mind. When we think of feelings long past, it is impossible for 
us not to be aware that our mind is then truly retrospective; and 
memory seems to us sufficient to account for the whole. But 
when the retrospect is of very recent feelings— of feelings, per- 
haps, that existed as distinct states of the mind, the very moment 
before our retrospect began, the short interval is forgotten, and 
we think that the primary feeling, and our consideration of the 
feeling, are strictly simultaneous. We have a sensation— we look 
instantly back on that sensation— such is consciousness as distin- 
guished from the feeling that is said to be its object. When it is 
any thing more than the sensation, thought, or emotion, of 
which we are said to be conscious, it is a brief and rapid 
retrospect. Its object is not a present feeling, but a past feeling, 
as truly as when we look back, not on the moment immediately 
preceding, but on some distant event or emotion of our boy- 
hood. . . . 

Consciousness, then, I conclude, in its simplest acceptation, 
when it is understood as regarding the present only, is no dis- 
tinct power of the mind, or name of a distinct class of feelings, 
but is only a general term for all our feelings, of whatever 
species these may be— sensations, thoughts, desires; in short, all 
those states or affections of mind, in which the phenomena of 
mind consist; and when it expresses more than this, it is only 
the remembrance of some former state of the mind, and a feel- 
ing of the relation of the past and the present as states of one 


sentient substance. The term is very conveniently used for the 
purpose of abbreviation, when we speak of the whole variety 
of our feelings, in the same manner as any other general term 
is used, to express briefly the multitude of individuals that agree 
in possessing some common property of which we speak; when 
the enumeration of these, by description and name, would be 
as wearisome to the patience, as is would be oppressive to the 
memory. But still, when we speak of the evidence of conscious- 
ness, we mean nothing more than the evidence implied in the 
mere existence of our sensations, thoughts, desires— which it is 
utterly impossible for us to believe to be and not to be; or, 
in other words, impossible for us to feel and not to feel at the 
same moment. 


Sir William Hamilton 


The Man and His Work 

By Noah Porter 

Sm William Hamilton, Bart., born at Glasgow, 1788. Ed. at 
Glasgow and Oxford. Called to the Bar 1813. Professor of Uni- 
versal History in Edinburgh, 1821— of Logic and Metaphysics, 
1836. Died in 1856. Published Essays in Edinburgh Review on 
Philosophy, viz.: "On the Philosophy of the Unconditioned," 
October, 1829, vol. 50. "On the Philosophy of Perception," Octo- 
ber, 1830, vol. 53. "On Logic," recent English Treatises, October, 
1832, vol. 56. "On the Deaf and Dumb," July, 1835, vol. 61; 
"On Idealism," Arthur Collier, April, 1839, vol. 68. These were 
published as Articles on Literature and Education, collected 
with notes and appendices, 1852, 2d ed. 1853. Many of these 
essays have been translated into French, with biographical and 
critical introduction by W. Peisse; also into Italian by S. Lo 
Gatto. A selection from these discussions was republished in 
America, with introduction by Robert Turnbull, D.D., New 
York, 1855. From the discussions and the notes, etc., attached 
to the works of Reid, O. W. Wight edited a volume, The Philos- 
ophy of Sir William Hamilton; New York, 1853, 3d ed. 1855. 
In 1846— London and Edinburgh— Hamilton published the 
Works of Thomas Reid, D.D., fully collected, with abundant 
notes and supplementary dissertations— edition not finished till 
after his death— and in part from his papers, 1853. Also, in 1854, 
he began to edit the Works of Dugald Stewart in eleven vol- 



umes (edition not complete at his death). Hamilton's Lectures 
on Metaphysics and Logic were edited after his death by Rev. 
H. L. Mansel, of Oxford, since Dean of St. Paul's, and John 
Veitch, since Professor in Glasgow, London, and Edinburgh, 
1859-60, also Boston, 1859-60. 

These works have been abridged and edited for schools, viz. : 
The Metaphysics, by Prof. Francis Bowen, Cambridge, 1861. 
The Logic, by Prof. Henry N. Day, Cincinnati, 1863. An Out- 
line of Sir William Hamilton s Philosophy: a textbook for stu- 
dents, was prepared by Prof. J. Clark Murray, Boston, 1870. 

Cf. Memoir of Sir William Hamilton, Bart., Professor of 
Logic and Metaphysics in the University of Edinburgh, by John 
Veitch, M. A., Professor of Logic and Rhetoric in the University 
of Glasgow, William Blackwood & Sons, 1869. 

Sir William Hamilton is the most conspicuous figure in the 
history of English Philosophy within the present century. His 
influence has been more efficient than that of any other person 
in arousing the attention of his countrymen to a fresh interest 
in the profoundest problems of philosophy, and in the careful 
study of its erudition and history. He was confessedly the most 
learned student of his time. No writer had so completely 
mastered the works of the Aristotelian commentators, of the 
schoolmen and their successors. His erudition was more than a 
dry accumulation of the principles and doctrines of past thinkers. 
He uniformly studied the philosophies of the past in the light 
of the discussions of the present, and saw with clear and com- 
prehensive insight the relations of the one to the other. The 
dissertations appended to his edition of the collected works of 
Reid are eminent examples of his comprehensive and sagacious 
learning. He was also an acute critic. The critical reviews, pub- 
lished as discussions, etc., as well as the footnotes upon Reid, 
are examples of his critical sagacity. But he was pre-eminently 
a logician, delighting in the forms of the syllogism and in the 
history of all logical doctrines. He was also interested in psycho- 
logical observations and in metaphysical analysis, and pre-emin- 
ently able in both. 

In Logic, Hamilton introduced what he called the Quantifi- 


cation of the Predicate, the design of which was to dispense 
altogether with the necessity of the conversion of propositions. 
This change involved an entirely new scheme of logical notation, 
which was perfected by Hamilton, and has been introduced or 
noticed in many subsequent treatises on Formal Logic. . . . 

In Psychology, Hamilton follows in general the method and 
the terminology of Reid. He was, however, in respect to some 
points, very largely influenced by Kant. Kant's influence over 
him, however, varied in different periods of his life, and occa- 
sioned some apparent inconsistencies of opinion in his works. 

The phenomena of the soul were divided by him into the 
phenomena of Knowledge, the phenomena of Feeling, and the 
phenomena of Conation, which included those of will and desire. 
The cognitive Faculties he divided into the Presentative, the 
Conservative, the Reproductive, the Representative, the Elabo- 
rative, and the Regulative. Consciousness is defined as the rec- 
ognition by the thinking subject of its own acts and affections. 
As such, it is actual and not potential knowledge, it is immedi- 
ate and not mediate, it implies contrast, judgment and memory. 
But Hamilton agrees with Brown, and differs from Reid and 
Stewart, in holding that there is no faculty of consciousness 
coordinate with the other intellectual powers. He however di- 
vides the Presentative Faculty into External Perception and 
Internal Perception or Self-consciousness. The office of self-con- 
sciousness is limited to the apprehension of the phenomena of 
spirit. These phenomena it apprehends under the forms of Time 
and of Self. 

Although Hamilton uses the term self-consciousness, he de- 
nies in the most explicit terms that we have any direct conscious- 
ness of the ego or self. Our knowledge of mind, as of matter, 
is limited to its phenomena. The reality— a being to which these 
pertain— would be "suggested," in the language of Reid, Stewart, 
and Brown, by these phenomena, and Hamilton would seem to 
agree with them in thought, if not in terminology. 

By External Perception we apprehend the phenomena of the 
external world, or of the Non-ego under the form of Space. 
External Perception consists of two elements, viz. Sensation and 


Perception proper, which are contrasted with one another re- 
spectively as feeling and knowledge, and which coexist and ener- 
gize in an inverse ratio to each other. By the first, we are aware 
of certain special affections of the soul as an animated organ- 
ism—by the second, of general relations under which this organ- 
ism exists as material. The direct objects of perception proper 
are the phenomena and relations of the material organism. These 
are subdivided into the three classes of qualities or attributes of 
matter, viz., the primary, the secundo-primary, and the sec- 
ondary; the first being percepts proper, the second being per- 
cepts proper and sensations proper, the third being sensations 
proper. By the first, we apprehend matter as occupying space 
and contained in space, involving divisibility, size and shape, 
mobility and place. The second class are contained under the 
category of resistance or pressure, and include gravity, cohesion, 
the compressible elastic, and relatively movable or immovable. 
The third are the powers to produce sensations in us. 

Of this Non-ego we have a direct, and not a representative 
knowledge. The doctrine of Representative Perception is the 
special subject of criticism and refutation by Hamilton. The var- 
ious forms in which this theory has been held were collected 
by him with exhaustive erudition and arranged in a subtle and 
comprehensive classification. ... As to what this Non-ego is, 
whether it consists of phenomena with their relations, giving the 
so-called Qualities of matter only, or whether it also includes 
matter as a Being, there is a difference of opinion among the 
followers, interpreters, and critics of Hamilton. His most friendly 
interpreters must confess that his language has been more or less 
influenced by the principles of Kant, and usually teaches that 
matter is in itself unknown, and that, so far as it is perceived, 
it is perceived only in its relations to the sentient and percipient 
mind. . . . 

The Conservative faculty, or the faculty of retention, is 
treated by Hamilton as a special faculty, for the reason that it, 
as he asserts, is governed by laws of its own, and is exerted 
by different individuals with differing energy. Its activity is out 
of consciousness, and may be analogous to other latent modifi- 


cations of the soul's energy, such as must be assumed to explain 
the sense-perceptions. These modifications do not, however, per- 
tain to any physical or physiological organ of memory. The 
reproductive or resuscitative faculty is the power by which one 
thought suggests another under what are called the laws of 
association. These laws are subjected by Hamilton to special 
historical research and scientific criticism. Works of Reid, Note 
D** and D*" Met. Lees. 31-32. All these laws are reduced to 
a single law or principle, viz., the law of redintegration, accord- 
ing to which parts of the same mental state tend to recall one 
another. To this law Hamilton, in the Dissertations, adds cer- 
tain relations of similarity and contrast as not covered by the 
law of redintegration. The Representative power is not clearly 
defined as a third generic faculty, but is treated under that 
special modification usually recognized as the Imagination, the 
creative function of which is limited to the capacity of selection 
and combination, and the dignity of which is made dependent 
on the presence and interfusion of the thought-power, or the 
faculty of relations. Of the representative power, pure and sim- 
ple, he treats only in hazarding the remark that to every repre- 
sentation of a sense-percept the activity of the appropriate sense 
organ is required as a condition. 

The Elaborative Faculty is called by Hamilton the Faculty 
of Relations, the Faculty of Comparison, the Discursive Faculty, 
and the Faculty of Thought. It begins with comparison, involv- 
ing a judgment of existence, of discrimination, of similarity, and 
a collection of several like attributes; upon this, classification 
is superinduced, giving two kinds of notions, the collective and 
the abstract, the last involving two relations, viz., of extension 
and comprehension. The product is the Concept. In respect to 
the nature of this product Hamilton ranks himself against the 
Realists and the extreme Conceptualists and with the moderate 
Nominalists, such as Berkeley. Judgment enters into all the cog- 
nitive faculties, but, as proper to the Elaborative faculty, it 
involves the comparison of a partial with a total conception and 
may be in the line of extension or comprehension. Reasoning is 
a double comparison, in which two parts and wholes mutually 


related are compared. It is either from the whole to the parts 
or from the parts to the whole, and is respectively Deduction 
and Induction. It may be in the line of either comprehension or 
extension. The only Induction which Hamilton recognizes is 
what he calls purely logical. That which is ordinarily so called 
he rejects as illogical. 

The Regulative Faculty is the faculty of a priori principles 
or relations. It is called a faculty by courtesy, not as "a proximate 
cause of a definite energy, but as the source of necessary cog- 
nitions." It is designated by various names, among others by 
the appellation common sense. To the justification of the use 
of this term and to the vindication of common sense as an 
authority in Philosophy, Hamilton devotes one of the ablest and 
the most learned of his dissertations in the Appendix to the 
works of Reid— A. The essential characters of the original cog- 
nitions are Incomprehensibility, Simplicity, Necessity, and ab- 
solute Universality and comparative Evidence and Certainty. 
The characteristics of all positive knowledge moreover are 
two— Non-contradiction and Relativity. By this last it appears 
that the mind can conceive only the limited and the condition- 
ally limited. We cannot therefore conceive an absolute whole 
nor an absolute part: neither an infinite whole nor an infinite 
part. The conditioned is the mean between two extremes, both 
unconditioned, neither of which can be conceived as possible, 
and yet one must be assumed as necessary. Relativity is not a 
law of things but a law of thought. So far as the relations of 
existence are concerned they are intrinsic or extrinsic. The in- 
trinsic relations are those of substance and quality involving one 
another, but neither thinkable apart. The Extrinsic are the rela- 
tions of time, space, and degree. These three are absolutely in- 
conceivable and but relatively conceivable. Things in time and 
space and degree are likewise conceivable relatively to one 

Causation is subjected by Hamilton to a special analysis. 
Eight theories in respect to the origin of this relation and of 
our belief in it are proposed and criticized— 4 a posteriori and 
4 a priori. Met. Lee. 39, 40. Subsequently causation is explained 


as a special application of the law of the conditioned as follows: 
The mind is unable to conceive of anything except under the 
forms of existence and of time. Whenever a phenomenon is 
apprehended as a fact, it cannot be conceived as non-existent, 
but it can be conceived as existing at another time under an- 
other form. The same being necessarily conceived as existing 
in two forms at different times is reciprocally cause or causes 
and effect. We believe this relation not in the exercise of a 
power or positive capacity of our nature, but under the con- 
straint of a powerlessness of our nature to think otherwise. The 
same is true of our belief in God and Free-Will. We cannot 
conceive of an uncaused or self-existent Being, but we can 
believe that such a Being exists. Similarly, we cannot conceive 
of a free act, i.e., an absolute commencement, but we are com- 
pelled to believe it. We rise above the antinomies that must 
necessarily attend the effort to conceive Time, Space, Freedom, 
and God, and affirm that all these in some sense are. In a letter 
to Mr. H. Calderwood, Met. App. No. V., Hamilton asserts: 
"When I deny that the Infinite can by us be known, I am far 
from denying that by us it is, must, and ought to be believed. . . ." 
Hamilton's influence has been more efficient in exciting an in- 
terest in, and a taste for, Philosophical researches than in found- 
ing a school or giving currency to a system. His vast erudition, 
acute criticism, catholic spirit, and his devotion to truth, have 
brought blessings to the English-speaking people which they will 
be slow to forget. 

The Scottish Philosophy 

By Sir William Hamilton 

This selection is a portion of an introductory lecture dated 1836. 
It gives Sir William's appraisal of David Hume, and of the Scottish 
School of Philosophv, of which he was himself perhaps the most 
gifted and distinguished member. Note his discussion of "a strong 


general analogy between the philosophies of Reid and Kant" in 
contrast with Stewart's unappreciative appraisal of Kant's philosophy. 
This selection is from Appendix B of Volume I of Sir William Ham- 
ilton's Lectures on Metaphysics, edited by the Rev. H. L. Mansel 
and John Veitch (in four volumes; 2d edition; Edinburgh: William 
Blackwood and Sons, MDCCCLXI), pp. 393-99. 

In former ages, Scotland presented but few objects for scien- 
tific and literary ambition; and Scotsmen of intellectual 
enterprise usually sought in other countries, that education, 
patronage, and applause, which were denied them in their own. 
It is, indeed, an honourable testimony to the natural vigour of 
Scottish talent, that, while Scotland afforded so little encourage- 
ment for its production, a complement so large in amount and of 
so high a quality should have been, as it were, spontaneously 
supplied. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there 
was hardly to be found a Continental University without a 
Scottish professor. It was, indeed, a common saying that a Scott- 
ish pedlar and a Scottish professor were everywhere to be met 
with. France, however, was long the great nursery of Scottish 
talent; and this even after the political and religious estrange- 
ment of Scotland from her ancient ally, by the establishment 
of the Reformation and the accession of the Scottish monarch 
to the English crown; and the extent of this foreign patronage 
may be estimated from the fact, that a single prelate— the illus- 
trious Cardinal du Perron— is recorded to have found places in 
the seminaries of France for a greater number of literary Scots- 
men than all the schools and universities of Scotland maintained 
at home. 

But this favour to our countrymen was not without its 
reasons; and the ground of partiality was not their superior 
erudition. What principally obtained for them reputation and 
patronage abroad, was their dialectical and metaphysical acute- 
ness; and this they were found so generally to possess, that 
philosophical talent became almost a proverbial attribute of the 

During the ascendant of the Aristotelic philosophy, and so 
long as dexterity in disputation was considered the highest aca- 


demical accomplishment, the logical subtlety of our country- 
men was in high and general demand. But they were remarkable 
less as writers than as instructors; for were we to consider them 
only in the former capacity, the works that now remain to 
us of these expatriated philosophers— these Scoti extra Scotiam 
agentes— though neither few nor unimportant, would still never 
enable us to account for the high and peculiar reputation which 
the Scottish dialecticians so long enjoyed throughout Europe. 

Such was the literary character of Scotland, before the estab- 
lishment of her intellectual independence, and such has it con- 
tinued to the present day. In illustration of this, I cannot now 
attempt a comparative survey of the contributions made by this 
country and others to the different departments of knowledge, 
nor is it necessary; for no one, I am assured, will deny that it is 
only in the Philosophy of Mind that a Scotsman has established 
an epoch, or that Scotland, by the consent of Europe, has 
bestowed her name upon a School. 

The man who gave the whole philosophy of Europe a new 
impulse and direction, and to whom, mediately or immediately, 
must be referred every subsequent advance in philosophical 
speculation, was our countryman— David Hume. In speaking of 
this illustrious thinker, I feel anxious to be distinctly under- 
stood. I would, therefore, earnestly request of you to bear in 
mind, that religious disbelief and philosophical skepticism are 
not merely not the same, but have no natural connection; and 
that while the one must ever be a matter of reprobation and 
regret, the other is in itself deserving of applause. Both were 
united in Hume; and this union has unfortunately contributed 
to associate them together in popular opinion, and to involve 
them equally in one vague condemnation. They must, therefore, 
I repeat, be accurately distinguished; and thus, though decid- 
edly opposed to one and all of Hume's theological conclusions, 
I have no hesitation in asserting of his philosophical skepticism, 
that this was not only beneficial in its results, but, in the circum- 
stances of the period, even a necessary step in the progress of 
Philosophy towards truth. In the first place, it was requisite in 
order to arouse thought from its lethargy. Men had fallen asleep 


over their dogmatic systems. In Germany, the Rationalism of 
Leibnitz and Wolf; in England, the Sensualism of Locke, with 
all its melancholy results, had subsided almost into established 
faiths. The Skepticism of Hume, like an electric spark, sent life 
through the paralyzed opinions; philosophy awoke to renovated 
vigour, and its problems were again to be considered in other 
aspects, and subjected to a more searching analysis. 

In the second place, it was necessary in order to manifest 
the inadequacy of the prevailing system. In this respect, skepti- 
cism is always highly advantageous; for skepticism is only the 
carrying out of erroneous philosophy to the absurdity which it 
always virtually involved. The skeptic, qua skeptic, cannot him- 
self lay down his premises; he can only accept them from the 
dogmatist; if true, they can afford no foundation for the skepti- 
cal inference; if false, the sooner they are exposed in their 
real character the better. Accepting his principles from the 
dominant philosophies of Locke and Leibnitz, and deducing 
with irresistible evidence these principles to their legitimate 
results, Hume showed, by the extreme absurdity of these results 
themselves, either that Philosophy altogether was a delusion, or 
that the individual systems which afforded the premises, were 
erroneous or incomplete. He thus constrained philosophers to 
the alternative, either of surrendering philosophy as null, or of 
ascending to higher principles, in order to re-establish it against 
the skeptical reduction. The dilemma of Hume constitutes, per- 
haps, the most memorable crisis in the history of philosophy; 
for out of it the whole subsequent Metaphysic of Europe has 
taken its rise. 

To Hume we owe the Philosophy of Kant, and, therefore, 
also, in general, the later philosophy of Germany. Kant explic- 
itly acknowledges that it was by Hume's reductio ad absurdum 
of the previous doctrine of Causality, he was first roused from 
his dogmatic slumber. He saw the necessity that had arisen, of 
placing philosophy on a foundation beyond the reach of skep- 
ticism, or of surrendering it altogether; and this it was that led 
him to those researches into the conditions of thought, which, 
considered whether in themselves or in their consequences, 


whether in what they established or in what they subverted, are, 
perhaps, the most remarkable in the annals of speculation. 

To Hume, in like manner, we owe the Philosophy of Reid, 
and, consequently, what is now distinctively known in Europe 
as the Philosophy of the Scottish School. 

Unable to controvert the reasoning of Berkeley, as founded 
on the philosophy of Descartes and Locke, Reid had quietly 
resigned himself to Idealism; and he confesses that he would 
never have been led to question the legitimacy of the common 
doctrine of Perception, involving though it did the negation of 
an external world, had Hume not startled him into hesitation and 
inquiry, by showing that the same reasoning which disproved 
the Existence of Matter, disproved, when fairly carried out, 
also the Substantiality of Mind. Such was the origin of the 
philosophy founded by Reid— illustrated and adorned by Stew- 
art; and it is to this philosophy, and to the writings of these two 
illustrious thinkers, that Scotland is mainly indebted for the 
distinguished reputation which she at present enjoys, in every 
country where the study of Mind has not, as in England, been 
neglected for the study of Matter. 

The Philosophy of Reid is at once our pride and our re- 
proach. At home mistaken and undervalued; abroad understood 
and honoured. The assertion may be startling, yet is literally 
true, that the doctrines of the Scottish School have been no- 
where less fairly appreciated than in Scotland itself. To 
explain how they have been misinterpreted, and consequently, 
neglected, in the country of their birth, is more than I can now 
attempt; but as I believe that an equal ignorance prevails in 
regard to the high favour accorded to these speculations by 
those nations who are now in advance, as the most enlightened 
cultivators of philosophy, I shall endeavour, as briefly as pos- 
sible, to show that it may be for our credit not rashly to dis- 
parage what other countries view as our chief national claim to 
scientific celebrity. In illustration of this, I shall only allude 
to the account in which our Scottish Philosophy is held in Ger- 
many and in France. 

There is a strong general analogy between the philosophies 


of Reid and Kant; and Kant, I may observe by the way, was a 
Scotsman by proximate descent. Both originate in a recoil against 
the skepticism of Hume; both are equally opposed to the Sen- 
sualism of Locke; both vindicate with equal zeal the moral 
dignity of man; and both attempt to mete out and to define the 
legitimate sphere of our intellectual activity. There are, how- 
ever, important differences between the doctrines, as might be 
anticipated from the very different characters of the men; and 
while Kant surpassed Reid in systematic power and compre- 
hension, Reid excelled Kant in the caution and security of his 
procedure. There is, however, one point of difference in which 
it is now acknowledged, even by the representatives of the 
Kantian philosophy, that Kant was wrong. I allude to the doc- 
trine of Perception— the doctrine which constitutes the very cor- 
ner-stone of the philosophy of Reid. Though both philosophies 
were, in their origin, reactions against the skepticism of Hume, 
this reaction was not equally determined in each by the same 
obnoxious conclusion. For, as it was primarily to reconnect 
Effect and Cause that Kant was roused to speculation, so it 
was primarily to regain the worlds of Mind and Matter that 
Reid was awakened to activity. Accordingly Kant, admitting, 
without question, the previous doctrine of philosophers, that 
the mind has no immediate knowledge of any existence external 
to itself, adopted it without hesitation as a principle— that the 
mind is cognizant of nothing beyond its own modifications, and 
that what our natural consciousness mistakes for an external 
world, is only an internal phenomenon, only a mental represen- 
tation of the unknown and inconceivable. Reid, on the contrary, 
was fortunately led to question the grounds on which philoso- 
phers had given the lie to the natural beliefs of mankind; and 
his inquiry terminated in the conclusion, that there exists no 
valid ground for the hypothesis, universally admitted by the 
learned, that an immediate knowledge of material objects is 
impossible. The attempt of Kant, if the attempt were serious, 
to demonstrate the existence of an external and unknown world 
was, as is universally admitted, a signal failure; and his Hypo- 
thetical Realism was soon analyzed by an illustrious disciple— 


Fichte— into an Absolute Idealism, with a logical rigour that did 
not admit of refutation. In the meanwhile, Reid's doctrine of 
Perception had attracted the attention of an acute opponent of 
the Critical Philosophy in Germany; and that doctrine, divested 
of those superficial errors which have led some ingenious reason- 
ers in this country to view and represent Reid as holding an 
opinion on this point identical with Kant's, was, in Kant's own 
country, placed in opposition against his opinion, fortified as 
that was by the authority of all modern philosophers. And with 
what result? Simply this— that the most distinguished represent- 
atives of the Kantian school now acknowledge Kant's doctrine 
of Perception to be erroneous, and one analogous to that of 
Reid they have adopted in its stead. Thus, while, in Scotland, 
the fundamental position of Reid's philosophy has been mis- 
understood, his criticism of the ideal theory treated as a blunder, 
and his peculiar doctrine of perception represented as essentially 
the same with that of the philosophers whom he assailed; in 
Germany, and by his own disciples, Kant's theory of perception 
is admitted to be false, and the doctrine of Reid, on this 
point, appreciated at its just value, and recognized as one of the 
most important and original contributions ever made to philos- 

But in France, I may add Italy, the triumph of the Scottish 
School has been even more signal than in Germany. The philos- 
ophy of Locke, first recommended to his countrymen by the 
brilliant fancy of Voltaire, was, by the lucid subtlety of Condil- 
lac, reduced to a simplicity which not only obtained an ascend- 
ant over the philosophy of Descartes, but rendered it in France 
the object of all but universal admiration. Locke had deduced 
all knowledge from Experience, but Condillac analyzed every 
faculty into Sense. Though its author was no materialist, the 
system of transformed sensation is only a disguised materialism; 
and the import of the doctrine soon became but too apparent 
in its effects. Melancholy, however, as it was, this theory ob- 
tained an authority in France unparalleled for its universality 
and continuance. For seventy years, not a single work of an op- 
posite tendency made the smallest impression on the public 


mind; all discussion of principles had ceased; it remained only 
to develop the remoter consequences of the system; philosophy 
seemed accomplished. 

Such was the state of opinion in France until the downfall 
of the Empire. In the period of tranquillity that followed the 
Restoration, the minds of men were again turned with interest 
towards metaphysical speculation; and it was then that the doc- 
trines of the Scottish Philosophy were, for the first time, heard 
in the public schools of France. Recommended by the powerful 
talent and high authority of Royer-Collard, these doctrines made 
converts of some of the loftiest intellects of France. A vigorous 
assault, in which the prowess of Cousin was remarkable, was 
made against the prevalent opinions, and with a success so 
decisive, that, after a controversy of twenty years, the school 
of Condillac is now, in its own country, considered as extinct; 
while our Scottish Philosophy not only obtained an ascendant 
in public opinion, but, through the influence of my illustrious 
friend M. Cousin, forms the basis of philosophical instruction in 
the various Colleges connected with the University of France. 
It must not, however, be supposed, that the French have 
servilely adopted the opinions of our countrymen. On the con- 
trary, what they have borrowed they have so ably amplified, 
strengthened, simplified, and improved, that the common doc- 
trines of Reid and Stewart, of Royer-Collard and Jouffroy (for 
Cousin falls under another category), ought in justice to be 
denominated the Scoto-Gallican Philosophy— a name, indeed, 
already bestowed upon them by recent historians of philosophy 
in Germany. . . . 


The Nature of Consciousness 

By Sm William Hamilton 

This selection, which should be compared with the one by the same 
title from Thomas Brown, is taken from Lecture XI of Sir William 
Hamilton's Lectures on Metaphysics, edited by the Rev. H. L. Man- 
sel and John Veitch (in four volumes; 2d edition; Edinburgh: 
William Blackwood and Sons, MDCCCLXI), Vol. I, pp. 182-83 
and 186-95. The title is abbreviated. 

In taxing a comprehensive survey of the mental phenomena, 
these are all seen to comprise one essential element, or to be 
possible only under one necessary condition. This element or 
condition is Consciousness, or the knowledge that I, that the 
Ego exists, in some determinate state. In this knowledge they 
appear, or are realized as phenomena, and with this knowledge 
they likewise disappear, or have no longer a phenomenal exist- 
ence; so that consciousness may be compared to an internal 
light, by means of which, and which alone, what passes in the 
mind is rendered visible. Consciousness is simple— is not com- 
posed of parts, either similar or dissimilar. It always resembles 
itself, differing only in the degrees of its intensity; thus, there 
are not various kinds of consciousness, although there are var- 
ious kinds of mental modes, or states, of which we are conscious. 
Whatever division, therefore, of the mental phenomena may be 
adopted, all its members must be within consciousness; that is, 
we must not attempt to divide consciousness itself, which must 
be viewed as comprehensive of the whole phenomena to be 
divided; far less should we reduce it, as a special phenomenon, 
to a particular class. Let consciousness, therefore, remain one 
and indivisible, comprehending all the modifications— all the 
phenomena, of the thinking subject. 

But taking, again, a survey of the mental modifications, or 
phenomena, of which we are conscious— these are seen to divide 
themselves into three great classes. In the first place, there are 


the phenomena of Knowledge; in the second place, there are the 
phenomena of Feeling, or the phenomena of Pleasure and Pain; 
and, in the third place, there are the phenomena of Will and 

Let me illustrate this by an example. I see a picture. Now, 
first of all, I am conscious of perceiving a certain complement of 
colours and figures— I recognize what the object is. This is the 
phenomenon of Cognition or Knowledge. But this is not the 
only phenomenon of which I may be here conscious. I may ex 
perience certain affections in the contemplation of this object. 
If the picture be a masterpiece, the gratification will be un- 
alloyed; but if it be an unequal production, I shall be conscious, 
perhaps, of enjoyment, but of enjoyment alloyed with dissatis- 
faction. This is the phenomenon of Feeling— or of Pleasure and 
Pain. But these two phenomena do not yet exhaust all of which 
I may be conscious on the occasion. I may desire to see the 
picture long— to see it often— to make it my own; and, perhaps, 
I may will, resolve, or determine so to do. This is the complex 
phenomenon of Will and Desire. . . . 

This division of the phenomena of mind into the three great 
classes of the Cognitive faculties— the Feelings, or capacities of 
Pleasure and Pain— and the Exertive or Conative Powers— I do 
not propose as original. It was first promulgated by Kant (Kritik 
der Urtheilskraft, Einleitung); and the felicity of the distribution 
was so apparent, that it has now been long all but universally 
adopted in Germany by the philosophers of every school. . . . 
To the psychologists of this country it is apparently wholly un- 
known. They still adhere to the old scholastic division into 
powers of the Understanding and powers of the Will; or, as 
it is otherwise expressed, into Intellectual and Active powers. 

By its author the Kantian classification has received no illus- 
tration; and by other German philosophers, it has apparently 
been viewed as too manifest to require any. Nor do I think it 
needs much; though a few words in explanation may not be 
inexpedient. An objection to the arrangement may, perhaps, be 
taken on the ground that the three classes are not co-ordinate. 
It is evident that every mental phenomenon is either an act of 


knowledge, or only possible through an act of knowledge, for 
consciousness is a knowledge— a phenomenon of cognition; and, 
on this principle, many philosophers— as Descartes, Leibnitz, 
Spinoza, Wolf, Platner, and others— have been led to regard the 
knowing, or representative faculty, as they called it, the faculty 
of cognition, as the fundamental power of mind, from which 
all others are derivative. To this the answer is easy. These 
philosophers did not observe that, although pleasure and pain— 
although desire and volition, are only as they are known to be; 
yet, in these modifications, a quality, a phenomenon of mind, 
absolutely new, has been superadded, which was never involved 
in, and could, therefore, never have been evolved out of, the 
mere faculty of knowledge. The faculty of knowledge is cer- 
tainly the first in order, inasmuch as it is the conditio sine qua 
non of the others; and we are able to conceive a being possessed 
of the power of recognizing existence, and yet wholly void of all 
feeling of pain and pleasure, and of all powers of desire and 
volition. On the other hand, we are wholly unable to conceive 
a being possessed of feeling and desire, and, at the same time, 
without a knowledge of any object upon which his affections 
may be employed, and without a consciousness of these affec- 
tions themselves. 

We can further conceive a being possessed of knowledge and 
feeling alone— a being endowed with a power of recognizing 
objects, of enjoying the exercise, and of grieving at the restraint, 
of his activity— and yet devoid of that faculty of voluntary 
agency— of that conation, which is possessed by man. To such 
a being would belong feelings of pain and pleasure, but neither 
desire nor will, properly so called. On the other hand, however, 
we cannot possibly conceive the existence of a voluntary activity 
independently of all feeling; for voluntary conation is a faculty 
which can only be determined to energy through a pain or 
pleasure— through an estimate of the relative worth of objects. 

In distinguishing the cognitions, feelings, and conations, it is 
not, therefore, to be supposed that these phenomena are possible 
independently of each other. In our philosophical systems, they 
may stand separated from each other in books and chapters; 


in nature, they are ever interwoven. In every, even the simplest, 
modification of mind, knowledge, feeling, and desire or will, go 
to constitute the mental state; and it is only by a scientific 
abstraction that we are able to analyze the state into elements, 
which are never really existent but in mutual combination. These 
elements are found, indeed, in very various proportions in dif- 
ferent states— sometimes one preponderates, sometimes another; 
but there is no state in which they are not all co-existent. 

Let the mental phenomena, therefore, be distributed under 
the three heads of phenomena of Cognition, or the faculties of 
Knowledge; phenomena of Feeling, or the capacities of Pleasure 
and Pain; and phenomena of Desiring or Willing, or the powers 
of Conation. 

The order of these is determined by their relative consecu- 
tion. Feeling and appetency suppose knowledge. The cognitive 
faculties, therefore, stand first. But as will, and desire, and aver- 
sion, suppose a knowledge of the pleasurable and painful, the 
feelings will stand second as intermediate between the other two. 

Such is the highest or most general classification of the 
mental phenomena, or of the phenomena of which we are con- 
scious. But as these primary classes are, as we have shown, all 
included under one universal phenomenon— the phenomenon of 
consciousness— it follows that Consciousness must form the first 
object of our consideration. 

I shall not attempt to give you any preliminary detail of 
the opinions of philosophers in relation to consciousness. The 
only effect of this would be to confuse you. It is necessary, in the 
first place, to obtain correct and definite notions on the subject, 
and having obtained these, it will be easy for you to under- 
stand in what respects the opinions that have been hazarded on 
the cardinal point of all philosophy, are inadequate or erroneous. 
I may notice that Dr. Reid and Mr. Stewart have favoured us 
with no special or articulate account of consciousness. The for- 
mer, indeed, intended and promised this. In the seventh chap- 
ter of the first Essay On the Intellectual Powers, which is 
entitled "Division of the Powers of the Mind," the concluding 
paragraph is as follows: 


I shall not, therefore, attempt a complete enumeration of the 
powers of the human understanding. I shall onlv mention those 
which I propose to explain, and they are the following: 

1st, The powers we have by means of our External Senses; 
2dly, Memory; 3dlv, Conception; 4thly, The powers of Resolv- 
ing and Analyzing complex objects, and compounding those that 
are more simple; 5thly, Judging; 6thly, Reasoning; 7thly, Taste; 
8thly, Moral Perception; and last of all, Consciousness. 

The work, however, contains no essay upon Consciousness; 
but, in reference to this deficiency, the author, in the last para- 
graph of the book, states, "As to Consciousness, what I think 
necessary to be said upon it has been already said; Essay vi., 
chap, v."— the chapter, to wit, entitled "On the First Principles 
of Contingent Truths." To that chapter you may, however, add 
what is spoken of consciousness in the first chapter of the first 
Essay, entitled, "Explication of Words," Section 7. We are, there- 
fore, left to glean the opinion of both Reid and Stewart on the 
subject of consciousness, from incidental notices in their writings; 
but these are fortunately sufficient to supply us with the neces- 
sary information in regard to their opinions on this subject. 

Nothing has contributed more to spread obscurity over a very 
transparent matter, than the attempts of philosophers to define 
consciousness. Consciousness cannot be defined— we may be our- 
selves fully aware what consciousness is, but we cannot, without 
confusion, convey to others a definition of what we ourselves 
clearly apprehend. The reason is plain. Consciousness lies at the 
root of all knowledge. Consciousness is itself the one highest 
source of all comprehensibility and illustration— how, then, can 
we find aught else by which consciousness may be illustrated 
or comprehended? To accomplish this, it would be necessary to 
have a second consciousness, through which we might be con- 
scious of the mode in which the first consciousness was possible. 
Many philosophers— and among others Dr. Brown— have defined 
consciousness as feeling. But how do they define a feeling? They 
define, and must define it, as something of which we are con- 
scious; for a feeling of which we are not conscious, is no feeling 
at all. Here, therefore, they are guilty of a logical see-saw, or 


circle. They define consciousness by feeling, and feeling by con- 
sciousness—that is, they explain the same by the same, and thus 
leave us in the end no wiser than we were in the beginning. 
Other philosophers say that consciousness is a knowledge— and 
others, again, that it is a belief or conviction of a knowledge. 
Here, again, we have the same violation of logical law. Is there 
any knowledge of which we are not conscious? Is there any 
belief of which we are not conscious? There is not, there cannot 
be; therefore, consciousness is not contained under either knowl- 
edge or belief, but, on the contrary, knowledge and belief are 
both contained under consciousness. In short, the notion of con- 
sciousness is so elementary, that it cannot possibly be resolved 
into others more simple. It cannot therefore, be brought under 
any genus, any more general conception; and, consequently, it 
cannot be defined. 

But though consciousness cannot be logically defined, it may, 
however, be philosophically analyzed. This analysis is effected 
by observing and holding fast the phenomena or facts of con- 
sciousness, comparing these, and, from this comparison, evolving 
the universal conditions under which alone an act of conscious- 
ness is possible. 

It is only in following this method that we can attain to 
precise and accurate knowledge of the contents of conscious- 
ness; and it need not afflict us if the result of our investigation 
be very different from the conclusions that have been previously 

But, before proceeding to show you in detail what the act of 
consciousness comprises, it may be proper, in the first place, to 
recall to you, in general, what kind of act the word is employed 
to denote. I know, I feel, I desire &c. What is it that is neces- 
sarily involved in all these? It requires only to be stated to be 
admitted, that when I know, I must know that I know— when I 
feel, I must know that I feel— when I desire, I must know that 
I desire. The knowledge, the feeling, the desire, are possible 
only under the condition of being known, and being known by 
me. For if I did not know that I knew, I would not know— if 
I did not know that I felt, I would not feel— if I did not 


know that I desired, I would not desire. Now, this knowledge, 
which I, the subject, have of these modifications of my being, 
and through which knowledge alone these modifications are 
possible, is what we call consciousness. The expressions I know 
that I know, I know that I feel, I know that I desire, are thus 
translated by I am conscious that 1 know, I am conscious that I 
feel, I am conscious that I desire. Consciousness is thus, on the 
one hand, the recognition by the mind or ego of its acts and 
affections— in other words, the self-affirmation, that certain modi- 
fications are known by me, and that these modifications are 
mine. But, on the other hand, consciousness is not to be viewed 
as anything different from these modifications themselves, but 
is, in fact, the general condition of their existence, or of their 
existence within the sphere of intelligence. Though the simplest 
act of mind, consciousness thus expresses a relation subsisting 
between two terms. These terms are, on the one hand, an I or 
Self, as the subject of a certain modification— and, on the other, 
some modification, state, quality, affection, or operation belong- 
ing to the subject. Consciousness, thus, in its simplicity, neces- 
sarily involves three things— (1) A recognizing or knowing 
subject; (2) A recognized or known modification; and (3) A 
recognition or knowledge by the subject of the modification. 

From this it is apparent, that consciousness and knowledge 
each involve the other. An act of knowledge may be expressed 
by the formula, I know; an act of consciousness by the formula, 
7 know that I know: but it is impossible for us to know without 
at the same time knowing that we know; so it is impossible to 
know that we know without our actually knowing. The one 
merely explicitly expresses what the other implicitly contains. 
Consciousness and knowledge are thus not opposed as really 
different. Why, then, it may be asked, employ two terms to 
express notions, which, as they severally infer each other, are 
really identical? To this the answer is easy. Realities may be 
in themselves inseparable, while, as objects of our knowledge, 
it may be necessary to consider them apart. Notions, likewise, 
may severally imply each other, and be inseparable even in 
thought; yet for the purpose of science, it may be requisite to 


distinguish them by different terms, and to consider them in 
their relations or correlations to each other. Take a geometrical 
example— a triangle. This is a whole composed of certain parts. 
Here the whole cannot be conceived as separate from its parts, 
and the parts cannot be conceived as separate from their whole. 
Yet it is scientifically necessary to have different names for each, 
and it is necessary now to consider the whole in relation to the 
parts, and now the parts in correlation to the whole. Again, the 
constituent parts of a triangle are sides and angles. Here the 
sides suppose the angles, the angles suppose the sides, and, in 
fact, the sides and angles are in themselves in reality, one and 
indivisible. But they are not the same to us, to our knowledge. 
For though we cannot abstract in thought, the sides from the 
angle, the angle from the sides, we may make one or other the 
principal object of attention. We may either consider the angles 
in relation to each other, and to the sides; or the sides in rela- 
tion to each other, and to the angles. And to express all this, 
it is necessary to distinguish, in thought and in expression, what, 
in nature, is one and indivisible. 

As it is in geometry, so it is in the philosophy of mind. We 
require different words, not only to express objects and relations 
different in themselves, but to express the same objects and 
relations under the different points of view in which they are 
placed by the mind, when scientifically considering them. Thus, 
in the present instance, consciousness and knowledge are not 
distinguished by different words as different aspects. The verbal 
distinction is taken for the sake of brevity and precision, and its 
convenience warrants its establishment. Knowledge is a relation, 
and every relation supposes two terms. Thus, in the relation in 
question, there is, on the one hand, a subject of knowledge— 
that is, the knowing mind— and on the other, there is an object 
of knowledge— that is, the thing known; and the knowledge it- 
self is the relation between these two terms. Now, though each 
term of a relation necessarily supposes the other, nevertheless 
one of these terms may be to us the more interesting, and we 
may consider that term as the principal, and view the other 
only as subordinate and correlative. Now, this is the case in the 


present instance. In an act of knowledge, my attention may be 
principally attracted either to the object known, or to myself 
as the subject knowing; and, in the latter case, although no new 
element be added to the act, the condition involved in it— J 
know that I know—becomes the primary and prominent matter 
of consideration. 

The Unconditioned 

By Sm William Hamilton 

This selection is from Sir William Hamilton's Discussions. It was 
originally published as an article in the Edinburgh Review, for Octo- 
ber, 1829, under the title "Refutation of the Various Doctrines of 
the Unconditioned, Especially of Cousin's Doctrine of the Infinite- 
Absolute." Reprinted here from O. W. Wight, Sir William Hamilton's 
Philosophy (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1860), pp. 454-57. 
Some footnotes are here omitted, and one (p. 457) is transferred 
to the text. 

In our opinion the mind can conceive, and consequently can 
know, only the limited, and the conditionally limited. The un- 
conditionally unlimited, or the Infinite, the unconditionally lim- 
ited, or the Absolute, cannot positively be construed to the mind; 
they can be conceived, only by a thinking away from, or abstrac- 
tion of, those very conditions under which thought itself is 
realized; consequently the notion of the Unconditioned is only 
negative— negative of the conceivable itself. For example, on the 
one hand we can positively conceive, neither an absolute whole, 
that is, a whole so great, that we cannot also conceive it as a 
relative part of a still greater whole; nor an absolute part, that 
is, a part so small, that we cannot also conceive it as a relative 
whole, divisible into smaller parts. On the other hand, we cannot 
positively represent, or realize, or construe to the mind (as here 
understanding and imagination coincide), an infinite whole, for 


this could only be done by the infinite synthesis in thought of 
finite wholes, which would require an infinite time for its accom- 
plishment; nor, for the same reason, can we follow out in 
thought an infinite divisibility of parts. The result is the same, 
whether we apply the process to limitation in space, in time, or 
in degree. The unconditional negation, and the unconditional 
affirmation of limitation; in other words, the infinite and the 
absolute, properly so called, are thus equally inconceivable to 

As the conditionally limited (which we may briefly call the 
conditioned) is thus the only possible object of knowledge and 
of positive thought— thought necessarily supposes conditions. To 
think is to condition and conditional limitation is the funda- 
mental law of the possibility of thought. For, as the greyhound 
cannot outstrip his shadow, nor (by a more appropriate simile) 
the eagle out-soar the atmosphere in which he floats, and by 
which alone he may be supported; so the mind cannot transcend 
that sphere of limitation, within and through which exclusively 
the possibility of thought is realized. Thought is only of the con- 
ditioned; because, as we have said, to think is simply to 
condition. The absolute is conceived merely by a negation of 
conceivability; and all that we know, is only known as 

—"won from the void and formless infinite." 

How, indeed, it could ever be doubted that thought is only of 
the conditioned, may well be deemed a matter of the profound- 
est admiration. Thought cannot transcend consciousness; con- 
sciousness is only possible under the antithesis of a subject and 
object of thought, known only in correlation, and mutually limit- 
ing each other; while independently of this, all that we know 
either of subject or object, either of mind or matter, is only a 
knowledge in each of the particular, of the plural, of the 
different, of the modified, of the phenomenal. We admit that 
the consequence of this doctrine is, that philosophy, if viewed 
as more than a science of the conditioned, is impossible. Depart- 
ing from the particular, we admit that we can never, in our 
highest generalizations, rise above the finite; that our knowledge, 


whether of mind or matter, can be nothing more than a knowl- 
edge of the relative manifestations of an existence, which in 
itself it is our highest wisdom to recognize as beyond the reach 
of philosophy, in the language of St. Austin— "cognoscendo 
ignorari, et ignoranclo cognosci." 

The conditioned is the mean between two extremes— two in- 
conditionates, exclusive of each other, neither of which can be 
conceived as possible, but of which, on the principles of con- 
tradiction and excluded middle, one must be admitted as neces- 
sary. On this opinion, therefore reason is shown to be weak, but 
not deceitful. The mind is not represented as conceiving two 
propositions subversive of each other, as equally possible; but 
only, as unable to understand as possible, either of two extremes; 
one of which, however, on the ground of their mutual repug- 
nance, it is compelled to recognize as true. We are thus taught 
the salutary lesson, that the capacity of thought is not to be 
constituted into the measure of existence; and are warned from 
recognizing the domain of our knowledge as necessarily coex- 
tensive with the horizon of our faith. And by a wonderful 
revelation, we are thus, in the very consciousness of our inability 
to conceive aught above the relative and finite, inspired with a 
belief in the existence of something unconditioned beyond the 
sphere of all comprehensible reality. 

True, therefore, are the declarations of a pious philosophy: 
"A God understood would be no God at all . . ."—"To think 
that God is, as we can think him to be, is blasphemy." The 
Divinity, in a certain sense, is revealed; in a certain sense is 
concealed: He is at once known and unknown. But the last 
and highest consecration of all true religion, must be an altar— 
"To the unknown and unknowable God." In this consummation, 
nature and revelation, paganism and Christianity, are at one; 
and from either source the testimonies are so numerous that I 
must refrain from quoting any. 


James Frederick Ferrier 

The Man and His Work 

By Noaii Porter 

James Frederick Ferrier, 1808-1864; born in Edinburgh; Uni- 
versity of Edinburgh and Baliol Coll., Oxford, 1825-1831; Pro- 
fessor of Civil History, Edin., 1842; Prof, of Moral Philosophy 
and Political Economy, St. Andrews, 1845, contributed various 
articles in Blackwood's Magazine: e.g., in 1838-9 a series under 
the title of "An Introduction to the Philosophy of Conscious- 
ness"; in 1847, Reid and the Philosophy of Common Sense. In 
1854, he published Institutes of Metaphysics: The Theory of 
Knowing and Being, 2d ed. 1856, which provoked sharp replies, 
viz.: "An Examination of Professor Ferrier's Theory of Knowing 
and Being," by Rev. John Cairns. "An Examination of Cairns' 
Examination of Professor Ferrier's Theory of Knowledge and 
Being," by Rev. J. Smith. "The Scottish Philosophy, a Vindica- 
tion and Reply," by Rev. J. Cairns. "Scottish Philosophy, the 
Old and New," by Prof. Ferrier. 

After the author's death his Remains were published, viz., 
Lectures on Greek Philosophy and other Philosophical Remains 
of James Frederick Ferrier, etc. Edited by Sir Alexander Grant, 
Bart., LL.D., and E. L. Lushington, M.A. 2 vols., 1866. New 
edition in 3 vols., 1888. These Remains consist of the "Introduc- 
tion to the Philosophy of Consciousness," and other philosophical 
articles from Blackwood's Magazine, and some other controver- 
sial and explanatory papers. 


Ferrier took from the first a critical and polemic attitude 
with respect to the current philosophy of Reid and the school 
of common sense, not merely in many points of detail, but in 
respect of its fundamental peculiarity, as he viewed it, of absorb- 
ing philosophy into psychology. It would seem, indeed, from his 
starting point in the analysis of the phenomena and fact of con- 
sciousness, that he was only an expounder of psychology. But 
he insisted that he was unfolding a "theory of knowing and 
being"; that he did not confine himself to the observation of 
facts, but provided for a statement of the fundamental con- 
ceptions of philosophy and the deduction of authorized conclu- 
sions, or what he calls "a reasoned philosophy." The distinctive 
peculiarity of his system is that he begins with the fact of con- 
sciousness as involving the Ego which is conscious of itself and 
its acts, and which recognizes itself as present and necessarily 
entering into all its products, so that we can neither conceive 
of matter, or the not me, except as made up also of the me 
as perpetually present, and a necessary constituent of the con- 
ception of matter, both as a whole and in its separate portions. 
In Ferrier's own language: 

The only material world which truly exists is one which either 
actually is or may possibly be known. But the only material 
world which either actually is or may possibly be known, is one 
along with which intelligence is and must be also known. There- 
fore, the only material world which truly exists, is one along 
with which intelligence also exists. Therefore the mere material 
world has no real and absolute existence. But neither is it a 
nonentity (I am no idealist), for there is no nonentity any more 
than there is entity out of relation to intelligence. (Remains, Vol. 
I., p. 397.) 

The speculation is threefold. First, the theory of knowing 
(epistemology); secondly, the theory of ignorance (agnoiology) ; 
thirdly, the theory of being (ontology). The theory of ignorance 
is that which merits most attention, if not on its own account, 
at any rate on account of its consequences. It seems to me to 
be an entire novelty in philosophy. 

There are two kinds of ignorance, but only one of them is 


ignorance properly so called. There is, first, an ignorance which 
is incident to some minds as compared with others, but not 
necessarily incident to all minds. 

Secondly, there is an ignorance or nescience which is of 
necessity incident to all intelligence bv its very nature, and 
which is no defect or imperfection or limitation, but rather a 
perfection. . . . No man can be ignorant that two and two 
make five; for this is a thing not to be known on any terms 
or by any mind. This fixes the law of ignorance, which is, that 
we can be ignorant onlv of what can (possibly) be known [or 
in barbarous locution] the knowable alone is the ignorable. 

What then is the knowable alone, the only possibly know- 
able *** The Epistemology answers this question, and fixes 
thing mccum, object plus subject, matter plus mind, as the only 

But what becomes of "Thing minus me" "Object by itself," 
"Matter per se," Kant's "Ding an sich"? "It is," says Kant, "that 
of which we are ignorant." 

It is not that of which we are ignorant, because it is not that 
which can possibly be known by any intelligence on any terms. 
To know thing per se or sine me, is as impossible and contradic- 
tory as it is to know two straight lines enclosing a space; because 
mind by its very law and nature must know the thing cum 
alio, i.e., along with itself knowing it. Therefore it is just as 
impossible for us to be ignorant of matter per se, thing minus 
me, "Ding an sich," as it is impossible for us to know this. 

Now for a glimpse of Ontology. ... In answer to the ques- 
tion What is real and absolute Being? we must either replv, It 
is that which we know, in which case it will be object plus 
subject, because this is the only knowable; or we must reply. It 
is that which we are ignorant of, in which case, also, it will 
be object plus subject. (Remains, I., pp. 483, 484, 485.) 

Ferrier reminds us of the earlier philosophy of J. G. Fichte, 
in his method of reasoning. Among all English writers he has a 
rare pre-eminence for the clearness and liveliness, the elegance 
and force of bis style. He has called attention to many single 


principles which are often overlooked; but his system has found 
few if any disciples. 1 

What a System of Philosophy Is 

By James Frederick Ferrier 

This selection is from the Introduction to James F. Ferrier's Insti- 
tutes of Metaphysics (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 
MDCCCLVI), pp. 1-7. The title has been supplied. 

A system of philosophy is bound by two main requisitions— it 
ought to be true, and it ought to be reasoned. If a system of 
philosophy is not true, it will scarcely be convincing; and if it 
is not reasoned, a man will be as little satisfied with it as a 
hungry person would be by having his meat served up to him 
raw. Truth is the ultimate end of philosophy; hence a system of 
philosophy ought to be true. The formation of reason (as 
effected by the discharge of its proper function, which is the 
ascertainment and concatenation of necessary principles and 
conclusions ) is the proximate end of philosophy; hence a system 
of philosophy ought to be reasoned. Philosophy, therefore, in its 
ideal perfection, is a body of reasoned truth. 

Of these obligations, the latter is the more stringent: it is 
more proper that philosophy should be reasoned, than that it 
should be true; because, while truth may perhaps be unattain- 
able by man, to reason is certainly his province, and within his 
power. In a case where two objects have to be overtaken, it is 
more incumbent on us to secure the one to which om* faculties 
are certainly competent, than the other, to which they are per- 
haps inadequate. Besides, no end can be so important for man 
as the cultivation of his own reason. 

1 For a discussion of Ferrier as a precursor of absolute idealism see 
the end of my Introduction. (Editor's note.) 


This consideration determines the value of a system of philos- 
ophy. A system is of the highest value only when it embraces 
both of these requisitions— that is, when it is both true and 
reasoned. But a system which is reasoned without being true, 
is always of higher value than a system which is true without 
being reasoned. 

The latter kind of system is of no value; because philosophy 
is "the attainment of truth by the way of reason." That is its 
definition. A system, therefore, which reaches the truth, but not 
by the way of reason, is not philosophy at all; it has no scien- 
tific worth. No man can be called upon to take truth upon trust 
at the hands of his brother man. But truth not reasoned is truth 
proposed upon trust. The best that could be said of such a 
system would be, that it was better than one which was neither 
true nor reasoned. 

Again— an unreasoned philosophy, even though true, carries 
no guarantee of its truth. It may be true, but it cannot be 
certain; because all certainty depends on rigorous evidence— on 
strict demonstrative proof. Therefore no certainty can attach to 
the conclusions of an unreasoned philosophy. 

Further— the truths of science, in so far as science is a means 
of intellectual culture, are of no importance in themselves, or 
considered apart from each other. It is only the study and appre- 
hension of their vital and organic connection which is valuable 
in an educational point of view. But an unreasoned body of 
philosophy, however true and formal it may be, has no living 
and essential interdependency of parts on parts; and is, there- 
fore, useless as a discipline of the mind, and valueless for pur- 
poses of tuition. 

On the other hand, a system which is reasoned, but not 
true, has always some value. It creates reason by exercising it. 
It is employing the proper means to reach truth, although it 
may fail to reach it. Even though its parts may not be true, yet 
if each of them be a step leading to the final catastrophe— a 
link in an unbroken chain on which the ultimate disclosure 
hinges— and if each of the parts be introduced merely because 
it is such a step or link— in that case it is conceived that the 


system is not without its use, as affording an invigorating em- 
ployment to the reasoning powers, and that general satisfaction 
to the mind which the successful extrication of a plot, whether 
in science or in romance, never fails to communicate. 

Such a system, although it falls short of the definition of 
philosophy just given, comes nearer to it than the other; because 
to reach truth, but not by the way of reason, is to violate the 
definition in its very essence; whereas to miss truth, but by the 
way of reason, is to comply with the fundamental circumstance 
which it prescribes. If there are other ways of reaching truth 
than the road of reason, a system which enters on any of these 
other paths, whatever else it may be, is not a system of philos- 
ophy in the proper sense of the word. 

But, as has been said, a system of philosophy ought to be 
both true in all its positions, and also thoroughly reasoned out in 
a series of strict demonstrations, which, while each is complete 
and impregnable in itself, shall present, in their combinations, 
only one large demonstration from the beginning to the end of 
the work. This, indeed, is the only kind of system to which much 
value can be assigned, or from which any large intellectual profit 
can be expected. Philosophical books may be read; philosophical 
lectures may be listened to; but nothing except a strictly 
reasoned system can be either taught or learned. 

Without offering any opinion as to how far the systems of 
philosophers may be true, we may affirm with certainty of the 
whole of them, that they are not reasoned— meaning by 
"reasoned," an unbroken chain of clear demonstration carried 
through from their first word to their last. To whatever extent 
preceding inquirers may have fulfilled one of the requirements 
of philosophy, they have neglected the more essential and ob- 
ligatory of the two. And the consequence makes itself heard in 
a murmur, over the whole world, of deep dissatisfaction, to 
which the words of the following paragraph may give a faithful, 
though perhaps feeble, expression. 

It is a matter of general complaint that, although we have 
plenty of disputations and dissertations on philosophy, we have 
no philosophy itself. This is perfectly true. People write about it. 


and about it; but no one has grasped with an unflinching hand 
the very thing itself. The whole philosophical literature of the 
world is more like an unwieldy commentary on some text which 
has perished, or rather has never existed, than like what a philos- 
ophy itself should be. Our philosophical treatises are no more 
philosophy than Eustathius is Homer, or than Malone is Shake- 
speare. They are mere partial and desultory annotations on some 
text, on which, unfortunately, no man can lay his hands, because 
it nowhere exists. Hence the embroilment of speculation; hence 
the dissatisfaction, even the despair, of every inquiring mind 
which turns its attention to metaphysics. There is not now in 
existence even the shadow of a tribunal to which any point in 
litigation can be referred. There is not now in existence a single 
book which lays down with precision and impartiality the In- 
stitutes of all metaphysical opinion, and shows the seeds of all 
speculative controversies. Hence philosophy is not only a war, 
but it is a war in which none of the combatants understands 
the grounds either of his own opinion or that of his adversary; 
or sees the roots of the side of the question, which he is either 
attacking or defending. The springs by which these disputatious 
puppets are worked, lie deep out of their own sight. Every 
doctrine which is either embraced or rejected, is embraced or 
rejected blindly, and without any insight into its merits; and 
every blow which is struck, whether for truth or error, is struck 
ignorantly, and at haphazard. 

The Primary Law or Condition of 
All Knowledge 

By James Frederick Ferrdzr 

This selection is Proposition I, and the Observations and Explana- 
tions accompanying it, from the Institutes of Metaphysics, Section I, 
"The Epistemologv, or Theory of Knowing," pp. 79-89. Note how it 
is based upon Sir William Hamilton's conception of consciousness 


as the fundamental principle of all knowledge. According to the 
Century Dictionary, Ferrier was probably the first writer to use the 
word epistemology. Paragraph numbers have been omitted. 


Along with whatever any intelligence knows, it must, as the 
ground or condition of its knowledge, have some cognizance of 


Self or the "me" is the common centre, the continually known 
rallying-point, in which all our cognitions meet and agree. It 
is the ens unum, et semper cognitum, in omnibus notitiis. Its 
apprehension is essential to the existence of our, and of all, 
knowledge. . . . What is the one feature present in all our 
knowledge— the common point in which all our cognition [s] 
unite and agree— the element in which they are identical? The 
ego is this feature, point, or element; it is the common centre 
which is at all times known, and in which all our cognitions, how- 
ever diverse they may be in other respects, are known as uniting 
and agreeing; and besides the ego, or oneself, there is no other 
identical quality in our cognitions— as any one may convince 
himself upon reflection. He will find that he cannot lay his 
finger upon anything except himself, and say— This article of 
cognition I must know along with what ever I know. 

The apprehension of oneself by oneself is the most general 
and essential circumstance on which knowledge depends, be- 
cause, unless this law be complied with, no intellectual appre- 
hension of any kind is possible; and wherever it is complied 
with, some kind of knowledge is necessary. Each of the subse- 
quent propositions (with the exception of the last of the episte- 
mology) gives expression to a necessary law of knowledge; but 
this first proposition lays down the fundamental necessity to 
which all intelligence is subject in the acquisition of knowledge. 
It states the primary canon in the code of reason from which all 
the other necessary laws are derivations. 


The condition of knowledge here set forth is not an opera- 
tion which is performed once for all, and then dispensed with, 
while we proceed to the cognition of other things. Neither is 
it an operation which is ever entirely intermitted, even when our 
attention appears to be exclusively occupied with matters quite 
distinct from ourselves. The knowledge of self is the running 
accompaniment to all our knowledge. It is through and along 
with this knowledge that all other knowledge is taken in. 

An objection may be raised to this proposition on the ground 
that it is contradicted by experience. It may be said that when 
we are plunged in the active pursuits of life, or engaged in 
the contemplation of natural objects, we frequently pass hours, 
it may be days, without ever thinking of ourselves. This objec- 
tion seems to militate against the truth of our first proposition. 
How is it to be obviated? 

If the proposition maintained, that our attention was at all 
times clearly and forcibly directed upon ourselves, or that the 
me was constantly a prominent object of our regard, the objec- 
tion would be fatal to its pretensions. The proposition would 
be at once disproved by an appeal to experience; for it is cer- 
tain that during the greater part of our time we take but little 
heed of ourselves. But a man may take very little note, without 
taking absolutely no note of himself. The proposition merely 
asserts that a man (or any other intelligence) is never altogether 
incognisant, is never totally oblivious, of himself, even when his 
attention is most engaged with other matters. However far it 
may be carried, the forgetfulness of self is only partial and 
apparent; it is never real and total. There is always a latent 
reference of one's perceptions and thoughts to oneself as the 
person who experiences them, which proves that, however 
deeply we may be engrossed with the objects before us, we 
are never stripped entirely of the consciousness of ourselves. 
And this is all that our proposition contends for. There is a calm 
unobtrusive current of self-consciousness flowing on in company 
with all our knowledge, and during every moment of our wak- 
ing existence; and this self-consciousness is the ground or 
condition of all our other consciousness. Nine hundred and 


ninety-nine parts of our attention may be always devoted to the 
thing or business we have in hand: it is sufficient for our argu- 
ment if it be admitted that the thousandth part, or even a 
smaller fraction, of it is perpetually directed upon ourselves. 

But how is our apparent self-oblivion to be explained? If 
it is not to be accounted for on the supposition that we ever 
drop entirely out of our own observation, we must be prepared 
to explain it on some other principle. And so we are. This over- 
sight, which in many cases is all but complete, may be accounted 
for in the most satisfactory manner by means of a principle of 
our nature which may be termed the law of familiarity, the 
effect of which law is well expressed in the old adage "Famil- 
iarity breeds neglect." Whatever we are extremely intimate with, 
we are very apt to overlook; and precisely in proportion to the 
novelty or triteness of any event are the degrees of our atten- 
tion called forth and exercised. We are enchained by the 
comparatively rare, we are indifferent towards the comparatively 
frequent. That which is strange rivets our intellectual gaze, that 
to which we are accustomed passes by almost unheeded. No 
influence has a greater effect than use and wont in dimming the 
eye of attention, and in blunting the edge of curiosity. This 
truth might be illustrated to an unlimited extent. It is sufficient 
for the present purpose to remark, that each of us is more famil- 
iar, and is therefore less occupied, with himself than he is with 
any other object that can be brought under his consideration. 
We are constantly present to ourselves, hence we scarcely 
notice ourselves. We scarcely remark the condition of our knowl- 
edge, so unremittingly do we obey it. Indeed, in our ordinary 
moods we seem to slip entirely out of our own thoughts. This 
is the inevitable consequence of our close familiarity, our con- 
tinued intimacy, our unbroken acquaintance with ourselves. But 
we never do slip entirely out of our own thoughts. However 
slender the threads may be which hold a man before his own 
consciousness, they are never completely broken through. 

There is this consideration, also, to be taken into account, 
that the part of our knowledge which consists of things of sense 
always naturally attracts our attention much more forcibly than 


that part of it which is apprehended by intellect merely. But 
that which we call "I" is the object of intellect alone. We are 
never objects of sense to ourselves. A man can see and touch 
his body, but he cannot see and touch himself. This is not the 
place to offer any observations on the nature of the thinking 
principle. The assertion that it either is, or is not, immaterial, 
must at present be avoided, as dogmatic, hypothetical, and 
premature— indeed, as altogether inconsistent with the purpose 
and business of the epistemology. But this much may be affirmed, 
that, when the cognizance of self is laid down as the condition of 
all knowledge, this of course does not mean that certain objects 
of sense (external things, to wit) are apprehended through cer- 
tain other objects of sense (our own bodies, namely), for such 
a statement would be altogether futile. It would leave the ques- 
tion precisely where it found it; for we should still have to ask, 
On what condition are these other objects of sense apprehended? 
To say that the things of sense are made known to us by means 
of the things of sense, does not advance us one step on the 
highroad to truth. The me, therefore, whether it be material or 
not— a point on which, at present, we offer no opinion— is cer- 
tainly not our own bodies, in so far as these are, or may be 
made, objects of sense; and not being an object of sensible, 
but only of intellectual experience, and our attention being 
naturally held captive by the things of sense, it is not surprising 
that these latter should cause us to attend but slightly to our- 
selves in our ordinary moods, and in the common transactions 
of life. Thus the slight degree of notice which we usually take 
of ourselves is sufficiently explained— without its being neces- 
sary to resort to the hypothesis that the oversight is ever total- 
by means of these two circumstances— the operation of the law 
of familiarity, and the fact that the ego is no object of sensible 

A theory of self-consciousness, opposed to the doctrine ad- 
vanced in our first proposition, has been sometimes advocated. 
It reduces this operation to a species of reminiscence: it affirms 
that we are first cognizant of various sensible impressions, and 
are not conscious of ourselves until we reflect upon them after- 


wards. But this doctrine involves a contradiction; for it supposes 
us to recollect certain impressions to have been ours, after they 
have been experienced, which we did not know to be ours 
when they were experienced. A man cannot remember what 
never happened. If the impressions were not known to be ours 
at the time, they could not subsequently be remembered to 
have been ours, because their recollection would imply that 
we remembered an antecedent connection between ourselves 
and them; which connection, however, had no place in our 
former experience, inasmuch as this theory declares that no 
self was in the first instance apprehended; therefore, if the im- 
pressions are recognized on reflection to have been ours, they 
must originally have been known to be ours. In other words, 
we must have been conscious of self at the time when the 
impressions were made. 

Looked at in itself, or as an isolated truth, our first proposi- 
tion is of no importance; but viewed as the foundation of the 
whole system, and as the single staple on which all the truths 
subsequently to be advanced depend, it cannot be too strongly 
insisted on, or too fully elucidated. Everything hinges on the 
stability which can be given to this proposition— on the accept- 
ance it may meet with. If it falls, the system entirely fails; if 
it stands, the system entirely succeeds. It is to be hoped that the 
reader will not be stopped or discouraged by the apparent 
truism which it involves. He may think that, if the main truth 
which this philosophy has to tell him is, that all his cognitions 
and perceptions are known by him to be his own, he will have 
very little to thank it for. Let him go on, and see what follows. 
Meanwhile, considering the great weight which this proposi- 
tion has to bear, we may be excused for bestowing a few more 
words on its enforcement. 

If this first proposition is not very clearly confirmed by ex- 
perience, it is at any rate not refuted by that authority. No one, 
by any effort of the mind, can ever apprehend a thing to the 
entire exclusion of himself. A man cannot wittingly leave him- 
self altogether out of his account, and proceed to the considera- 


tion of the objects by which he is surrounded. On the contrary, 
he will find that, nolens volens, he carries himself consciously 
along with him, faint though the consciousness may be, in all 
the scenes through which he passes, and in all the operations 
in which he is engaged. He will find that, when he is cognizant 
of perceptions, he is always cognizant of them as his. But this 
cognizance is equivalent to self-consciousness, and therefore it 
is reasonable to conclude that our proposition is not only not 
overthrown, but, moreover, that it is corroborated by experience. 
But it is Reason alone which can give to this proposition the 
certainty and extension which are required to render it a sure 
foundation for all that is to follow. Experience can only estab- 
lish it as a limited matter of fact; and this is not sufficient for 
the purposes of our subsequent demonstrations. It must be estab- 
lished as a necessary truth of reason— as a law binding on 
intelligence universally— as a conception, the opposite of which 
is a contradiction and an absurdity. Strictly speaking, the prop- 
osition cannot be demonstrated, because, being itself the ab- 
solute starting-point, it cannot be deduced from any antecedent 
data; but it may be explained in such a way as to leave no 
doubt as to its axiomatic character. It claims all the stringency 
of a geometrical axiom, and its claims, it is conceived, are 
irresistible. If it were possible for an intelligence to receive 
knowledge at any one time without knowing that it was his 
knowledge, it would be possible for him to do this at all times. 
So that an intelligent being might be endowed with knowledge 
without once, during the whole term of his existence, knowing 
that he possessed it. Is there not a contradiction involved in that 
supposition? But if that supposition be a contradiction, it is 
equally contradictory to suppose that an intelligence can be con- 
scious of his knowledge, at any single moment, without being 
conscious of it as his. A man has knowledge, and is cognizant 
of perceptions only when he brings them home to himself. If 
he were not aware that they were his, he could not be aware 
of them at all. Can I know without knowing that it is / who 
know? No, truly, But if a man, in knowing anything, must 


always know that he knows it, he must always be self-conscious. 
And therefore reason establishes our first proposition as a neces- 
sary truth— as an axiom, the denial of which involves a contradic- 
tion, or is, in plain words, nonsense. 

Ignorance and The Law of All Ignorance 

By James Frederick Fereuer 

This selection contains Propositions I: "What Ignorance Is," II: "Ig- 
norance Remediable," and III: "The Law of All Ignorance," from 
the Institutes of Metaphysics, Section II, "The Agnoiologv, or Theory 
of Ignorance," pp. 405-16. It also contains the demonstrations and 
the observations and explanations following the statement of each of 
these three propositions. Paragraph numbers have been omitted. 


Ignorance is an intellectual defect, imperfection, privation, or 


The deprivation of anything whose possession is consistent 
with the nature of the Being which wants it, is a defect. But 
ignorance is a deprivation of something which is consistent with 
the nature of intelligence: it is a deprivation of knowledge. 
Therefore ignorance is an intellectual defect, imperfection, priva- 
tion, or shortcoming. 


The demonstration, and even the enunciation, of so obvious 
a truism may appear superfluous. It is introduced, however, in 
order that the doctrine of ignorance may be cleared from the 


very beginning and to obviate any complaint to which the 
subsequent propositions might be exposed on the ground that 
their data of proof had been left doubtful or unexpressed. 

There have been many inquiries into the nature of knowl- 
edge: there has been no inquiry into the nature of ignorance. 
This section of the science has positively no forerunner; it is an 
entire novelty in philosophy— a circumstance which is men- 
tioned merely to account for the fewness and brevity of the 
accompanying annotations. The agnoiology makes its way 
through a comparatively unencumbered field. There is some- 
thing to pull down and something to build up; but the work 
both of demolition and of construction is much simpler than it 
was in the epistemology. 

This research, however, is indispensable. It is impossible to 
pass to the third section of the science except through the 
portals of this inquiry. For, suppose we were at once to carry 
forward the result of the epistemology into the ontology, and in 
answer to the question, What truly and absolutely is? were 
to reply, Objects plus a subject, the ego with some thing or 
thought present to it— this, and this alone, is what truly and 
absolutely is— we should be instantly stopped by the rejoinder 
that this synthesis is, at best, merely the known absolute, merely 
the substantial in cognition. It does not follow, the objector 
would say, that this synthesis alone is true and absolute Being— 
that it is the only true substantial in existence. He would argue 
that what truly and absolutely exists may be something very 
different from this— may be matter per se or mind per se, or 
something else of which we can form no sort of conception, 
and to which we can attach no predicate; in short, that it may 
be, and is, that of which we are profoundly ignorant. 

This plea has hitherto operated as an insurmountable barrier 
to the advance of metaphysics into the region of ontology. The 
fact of our extreme ignorance being undeniable, and the science 
of absolute existence being apparently inaccessible except on the 
postulation of a universal and unlimited knowledge, the diffi- 
culty of reconciling these two apparent incompatibilities seems 
to have disconcerted every system hitherto propounded. Any 


reasoned ontological conclusion establishing what alone abso- 
lutely exists, is obviously impossible in a system which admits 
our ignorance without entering into any critical inquiry as to its 
nature; while, on the other hand, the ontology of a system which 
denies our ignorance, or passes it over sub silentio, must either 
rest upon a false ground, or upon no ground at all— on a false 
ground if our ignorance is denied— on no ground at all if it is 
not taken into account. In one or other of these predicaments 
all previous systems appear to be placed in reference to the 
problem of absolute existence; and hence a reasoned and sys- 
tematic ontology has remained until this day a desideratum in 
speculative science, because a reasoned and systematic agnoiol- 
ogy has never yet been projected. 

The only way in which a deliverance from this dilemma can 
be effected is, by admitting our ignorance to the full, and then 
by instituting a searching inquiry into its nature and character. 
Conceding, then, that the conclusion of the epistemology cannot 
at present, with any logical propriety, be given out as valid for 
the ontology, the system proceeds to this investigation, and deal- 
ing not with the abstract, but only, or chiefly, with the concrete, 
it goes on to consider and to point out what we are, and can 
be, and what we are not, and cannot be, ignorant of. It is 
conceived that the research, thus conducted, will result in an 
effectual clearance of the ground for the establishment of a 
demonstrated ontology. . . . 


All ignorance is possibly remediable. 


No kind of knowledge is absolutely inconsistent with the 
nature of all intelligence. But unless all ignorance were possibly 
remediable, some kind of knowledge would be inconsistent with 
the nature of all intelligence, to wit, the knowledge by which 


the ignorance in question might be remedied. Therefore all 
ignorance is possibly remediable. 

Or again, All defects are possibly remediable, otherwise they 
would not be defects. But ignorance is a defect (Prop. I). 
Therefore all ignorance is possibly remediable. 


This proposition does not prove that all ignorance is actually 
remedied: in other words, that omniscience pervades the uni- 
verse; but only that every form of ignorance is of such a 
character that it may possibly be removed; and that if certain 
kinds of ignorance are incident to certain orders of the intel- 
ligence, they are not, of necessity, incident to other orders of 
intelligence. The subsequent movements of the system do not 
require that more than this should be proved. Neither does this 
proposition prove that all human ignorance is possibly remedi- 
able. It only proves that what man or any other intelligence may 
happen to be ignorant of, need not, of necessity, be unknown 
to all other intelligences (supposing that other intelligences 
exist). In other words, it merely proves that whatever any 
intelligence is ignorant of, may nevertheless be known— known 
actually if an intelligence exists competent to know it— and 
known potentially even although no such intelligence should 
exist. Unless this were true, all ignorance would not be possibly 
remediable; and if all ignorance were not possibly remediable, 
some kind of knowledge would be inconsistent with the nature 
of all intelligence— in which case, ignorance would be no defect, 
because a defect is always the privation of some quality or 
attribute which is consistent with the nature of the being who 
is deprived of it. . . . 


We can be ignorant only of what can possibly be known; in 
other words, there can be an ignorance only of that of which 
there can be knowledge. 



If we could be ignorant of what could not possibly be 
known by any intelligence, all ignorance would not be possibly 
remediable. The knowledge in which we were deficient could 
not be possessed by any intelligence. But all ignorance is pos- 
sibly remediable (by Prop. II). Therefore, we can be ignorant 
only of what can possibly be known; in other words, there can 
be an ignorance only of that of which there can be a knowledge. 


This is the most important proposition in the agnoiology: 
indeed, with the exception of the first of the epistemology, it is 
the most fruitful and penetrating proposition in the whole 
system. It announces— for the first time, it is believed— the pri- 
mary law of all ignorance, just as the first of the epistemology 
expresses the primary law of all knowledge. It is mainly by the 
aid of these two propositions that this system of Institutes is 
worked out. All the other propositions have an essential part to 
play in contributing to the final result; but these two are the 
most efficient performers in the work. If the reader has got 
well in hand these two truths— first, that there can be a knowl- 
edge of things only with the addition of a self or subject; and, 
secondly, that there can be an ignorance only of that of which 
there can be a knowledge— he will find himself in possession of 
a lever powerful enough to break open the innermost secresies 
of nature. These two instruments cut deep and far— they lay 
open the universe from stem to stern. 

Ignorance, properly so called— that is, the ignorance which 
is a defect— must not be confounded with a nescience of the 
opposites of the necessary truths of reason; in other words, with 
a nescience of that which it would contradict the nature of all 
intelligence to know. Such nescience is no defect or imperfec- 
tion—it is, on the contrary, the very strength or perfection of 
reason; and therefore such nescience is not to be regarded as 
ignorance. This simple but very important distinction must be 


explained and illustrated, for it is one which is very apt to 
be lost sight of, or confounded; indeed, it has been altogether 
overlooked until now. 

When boys at school are taught Euclid, they learn that "the 
enclosure of space by two straight lines" is what cannot be 
known— that "if equals be added to equals the wholes are un- 
equal" is what cannot be known— that "a part is greater than 
the whole" is what cannot be known, and so forth; but they do 
not learn that they are equally incapable of being ignorant of 
such matters. It is not necessary to apprise them of this in order 
to carry them forward in the study of mathematics. Nothing in 
geometry depends on the circumstance that we cannot be ig- 
norant of what is deponed to in the opposites of the axioms. 
Hence this study merely shows us that there can be no knowl- 
edge of these opposites; it does not open our eyes to the fact 
that there can be no ignorance of them. It is obvious, however, 
that it is just as impossible for us to be ignorant of them as it 
is impossible for us to know them. No man can know that two 
and two make five— but just as little can any man be ignorant 
of this; for suppose him ignorant of it, in that case his ignorance 
could be removed only by teaching him that two and two do 
make five; but such instruction, instead of removing his igno- 
rance, would remove his knowledge, and instead of giving him 
knowledge, would give him ignorance, or rather absurdity. The 
cure in this case would be itself the disease. 

An attention to the fact, that it is impossible for us (or for 
any intelligence) to be ignorant of the contradictory, that is, 
of the opposites of the necessary truths of reason, or, in other 
words, of that which cannot be known on any terms by any 
intelligence, though of no importance in mathematics, is of the 
utmost importance in metaphysics. Speculation can obtain a 
footing in ontology only by attending carefully to this circum- 
stance, and by working it out through all its consequences. This 
truth is the key to the whole philosophy of ignorance. When we 
consider it well, we discover that the supposition that we can be 
ignorant of that which is absolutely and necessarily unknowable 
to all intelligence, is as extreme a violation of the law of con- 


tradiction as it is possible to conceive. We perceive that a 
nescience of the contradictory is not ignorance, but is the very 
essence of intelligence; and that there can be an ignorance only 
of that which can be known, or, otherwise expressed, of that 
which is non-contradictory. With this discovery, light breaks 
into every cranny and recess of our science: the "holy jungle" 
of metaphysic is laid open to the searching day, and now no 
obstacle can stop the onward course of speculation. . . . 

What Absolute Existence Is 

By James Frederick Ferrier 

This selection contains Proposition X, and some of the observations 
accompanying it, from Section III, "The Ontology, or Theory of 
Being," pp. 511-20. Paragraph symbols and numbers and some cross 
references to various propositions contained in the Institutes of Meta- 
physics have been omitted. 


Absolute Existence is the synthesis of the subject and object— 
the union of the universal and the particular— the concretion of 
the ego and non-ego; in other words, the only true, and real, 
and independent Existences are minds-together-with-that-which- 


Absolute Existence is either that which we know or that 
which we are ignorant of. If Absolute Existence is that which we 
know, it must be the synthesis of subject and object— the union 
of the universal and the particular, the concretion of the ego 
and the non-ego, because this, and this alone, is knowable. 
This svnthesis alone is the conceivable. This, and this alone, is 


the substantial and absolute in cognition. Again, if Absolute 
Existence is that which we are ignorant of, it must equally be 
the synthesis of subject and object, the union of the universal 
and the particular, the concretion of the ego and the non-ego, 
because this, and this alone, is what we can be ignorant of.' 
Therefore, whichever alternative be adopted, the result is the 
same. Whether we claim a knowledge, or profess an ignorance, 
of the Absolutely Existent, the conclusion is inevitably forced 
upon us that the Absolutely Existent is the synthesis of the 
subject and object-the union of the universal and the particu- 
lar-the concretion of the ego and non-ego; in other words, that 
the only existence to which true, and real, and independent 
Being can be ascribed are minds-together-with-that-which-they- 


This proposition solves the problem of ontology. It demon- 
strates what is-what alone absolutely exists: and thus the end 
or aim which it was the business and duty of this section of 
the science to accomplish, has been overtaken. A predicate 
declaratory of its character has been affixed to Absolute Exist- 
ence, and this predicate applies to it equally whether we are 
cognizant of it, or are ignorant of it. If we are cognizant of 
Absolute Existence, it must be object plus subject, because this, 
and this alone, is what any intelligence can know. If we are 
ignorant of Absolute Existence, it must be still object plus sub- 
ject, because we can be ignorant only of what can be known- 
and object plus subject is what alone can be known. Thus the 
concluding truth of the ontology is demonstratively established, 
and comes out all the same whether we claim a knowledge, or 
avow an ignorance, of that which truly exists. Thus the ultimate 
end of the system is compassed-compassed by legitimate means, 
and its crowning pledge triumphantly redeemed. 

The solution of the ontological problem affords moreover, an 
answer to the ultimate question of philosophy-What is truth? 
Whatever absolutely is, is true. The question, therefore, is-But 


what absolutely is? And the answer, as now declared, is, that 
object plus subject is what absolutely is— that this, and this 
alone, truly and really exists. This synthesis, accordingly, is 
THE TRUTH: the Ground— below which there is neither any- 
thing nor nothing. 

The reader who has followed the system up to this point, 
should now be at no loss to understand how the synthesis of the 
particular and the universal is alone entitled to the name of 
"the Existent." This doctrine, or at least an approximation to it, 
was the burden of the philosophy of antiquity— the truth mainly 
insisted on by the early Greek speculators. But the doctrine at 
that time, and as they expounded it, was of necessity unintel- 
ligible. None of them knew, or at any rate none of them said, 
what the universal was which entered into the synthesis of 
Existence. None of them named it. Hence their statement made 
no impression on the popular mind, and it has remained an 
enigma to all succeeding generations. No one could understand 
why the particular (that is, material things by themselves) was 
denied to be truly existent. But these Institutes have now 
distinctly shown what this universal is, and the darkness is dis- 
sipated—the ancient doctrine becomes luminous. The Institutes 
have shown that this universal is oneself: oneself, first, inasmuch 
as this element must form a part of everything which any 
intelligence can know; oneself, secondly, inasmuch as this ele- 
ment must form a part of everything which any intelligence can 
conceive; oneself, thirdly, inasmuch as this element must form 
a part of everything which any intelligence can be ignorant of. 
These points having been demonstratively established, it is con- 
ceived that people should have now no difficulty to understand- 
ing how oneself or the ego must also form a part of everything 
which really and truly exists, and consequently how the Abso- 
lutely Existent should in all cases be the union of the universal 
and the particular; and further, how Absolute Existence cannot 
be accorded to the particular— that is, to mere material things— 
inasmuch as these, by themselves, are the contradictory to all 
knowledge, and likewise the contradictory to all ignorance; and, 
therefore, cannot have true Being ascribed to them, unless we 


are prepared to maintain that the nonsensical, or that which is 
neither nothing nor anything, is the truly and absolutely existent. 

It was formerly remarked that the equation or coincidence of 
the known and the existent is the ultimate conclusion which 
philosophy has to demonstrate. This demonstration has been 
supplied, and the conclusion has been reasoned out from the 
bottom. The universal and the particular (ego and non-ego) in 
cognition are also in all essential respects the universal and the 
particular in existence; or, expressed more popularly, the con- 
clusion is that every true and absolute existence is a conscious- 
ness-together-with-its-contents, whatever these contents may be. 
Thus Knowing and Being are shown to be built up out of the 
same elements; and thus the laws of cognition are demonstrated 
to be in harmony with the laws of existence; and thus psychol- 
ogy, the whole spirit of whose teaching is to inculcate the fright- 
ful doctrine that there is no parallelism between them, is 

It has now, moreover, been shown, by means of strict demon- 
stration, that the substantial and absolute in existence equates, 
in essentialibus, with the substantial and absolute in cognition. 
The substantial and absolute in cognition was found to be the 
synthesis of the ego and non-ego— of the subject and object— of 
the universal and the particular. This same synthesis was found 
to be the substantial and absolute in ignorance, and hence it 
follows that this same synthesis is the substantial and Absolute 
in Existence; because the substantial and absolute in existence 
must be either that which we know or that which we are igno- 
rant of. And thus we obtain further proof and corroboration of 
the coincidence of the Known and the Existent. The ego is the 
summum genus of existence, no less than of cognition. 

To remove any ground of misapprehension, it is necessary, 
at this place, to direct attention to the words "in essentialibus" 
in the preceding paragraph. The Absolute, as known by us, has 
been proved to be identical with the existing Absolute, not in 
all respects accidental as well as essential, but only in all essen- 
tial respects: in other words, the Absolute in existence cannot 
be declared to coincide exactly with the Absolute in our cogni- 


tion, but only with the absolute in all cognition: or to express 
the restriction differently— the ontology gives out as the exist- 
ing Absolute the result which is obtained from the study of 
the necessary laws of knowledge only, and not the result which 
is obtained from the study of both the necessary and the con- 
tingent laws of knowledge. An illustration, or concrete example, 
will enable the reader to understand clearly this somewhat ab- 
stract statement. 

The absolutely Existent which each of us is individually cog- 
nizant of, is— himself-apprehending-things-Z?t/-£/ie-se7ise,s. A man 
cannot be cognizant of himself merely, or of things merely, or 
of senses merely. He, therefore, cannot be cognizant of these 
three as existences, but only as factors or elements of existence; 
and the only true and absolute existence which he can know is, 
as has been said, their synthesis— to wit, himself-apprehending- 
things-by-the-senses. Now the circumstance to be particularly 
attended to is, that the part of the synthesis here printed in 
italics is contingent in its character. Our five senses are the acci- 
dental part of the absolute in our cognition: they are not a 
necessary part of the Absolute in all cognition, and therefore 
they are not a necessary part of every absolute existence. Other 
intelligences may be cognizant of them-selves-apprehending- 
things-in-other-ivays-than-we-do. In which case their Absolute, 
both in cognition and existence, would be different from ours, 
in its accidentals, but not in its essentials. So that all that the 
ontology professes to have proved in regard to absolute exist- 
ence is, that every Absolute Existence must consist of the two 
terms— ego and non-ego— subject and object— universal and par- 
ticular; in other words, of a self, and something or other (be it 
what it may) in union with a self. 

It was formerly remarked that it would be necessary in the 
ontology to qualify the assertion that "Plato's intelligible world 
was our sensible world." The foregoing observation may enable 
the reader to understand to what extent that assertion has to be 
qualified. Plato's intelligible world is our sensible world, in so 
far as all the essential elements both of cognition and of exist- 
ence are concerned; but not in so far as the contingent elements, 


either of cognition or of existence, are concerned: in other words, 
Plato's intelligible world is our sensible world to this extent, 
that it is that which must embrace a subjective and an 
objective factor— an ego and a non-ego— but not to this 
extent that it is that into whose constitution (whether consid- 
ered as known or as existent) such senses as ours must of 
necessity enter. Hence what we term the sensible world is the 
only intelligible or truly existing world in so far as it consists 
of ourselves and things, but it is not the only intelligible and 
truly existing world in so far as the senses are embraced in 
this synthesis, for these are the contingent and (possibly) vari- 
able conditions of the known; and are consequently the con- 
tingent and (possibly) variable condition of the existent. The 
other terms (ego and non-ego) must co-exist wherever there is 
either knowledge or existence. Hence it may be truly said that 
every existence is a co-existence; and that to attempt, as all 
psychology does, to cut down this co-existence into two separate 
existences (mind and its objects), is to aim at the establishment 
of contradiction in the place of knowledge, and of nonsense in 
the place of existence. 

A word must here be added to explain in what sense, and to 
what extent, we are cognizant of absolute existence, and in 
what sense, and to what extent, we are ignorant of the same. 
Every man is cognizant of absolute existence when he knows— 
himself and the objects by which he is surrounded, or the 
thoughts or feelings by which he is visited; every man is igno- 
rant (in the strict sense of having no experience) of all absolute 
existence except this— his own individual case. But a man is 
not ignorant of all absolute existences except himself and his 
own presentations, in the sense of having no conception of them. 
He can conceive them as conceivable, that is to say, as non- 
contradictory. He has given to him, in his own case, the type 
or pattern by means of which he can conceive other cases of 
absolute existence. Hence he can affirm, with the fullest assur- 
ance, that he is surrounded by Absolute Existences constituted 
like himself, although it is impossible that he can ever know 
them as they know themselves, or as he knows himself. He will 


find, however, that every attempt to construe to his mind an 
absolute and real existence which is not a synthesis of subject 
and object, resolves itself into a contradiction, and precipitates 
him into the utterly inconceivable. But although absolute exist- 
ences are innumerable— although every example of objects plus 
a subject is a case of Absolute Existence— there is, nevertheless, 
only one Absolute Existence which is strictly necessary, as the 
next and concluding proposition of the ontology will show. 


James McCosh 

The Man and His Work 

By Harvey Gates Townsend 

James McCosh has been neglected in the study of American 
philosophy. This may be accounted for in part by the fact that 
he did not come to America until he was fifty-seven years old. 
By that time, he had already identified himself with the Scottish 
School of Thomas Reid and Sir William Hamilton. He was born 
in Ayrshire, Scotland, in 1811, and studied philosophy at the 
universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh. . . . McCosh attracted 
attention, while at Edinburgh, for a paper on the Stoics, as a 
result of which he was recommended for a Master's degree by 
Sir William Hamilton. He became a minister in the Scottish 
church, but kept in the academic eye through publication. In 
1850 there appeared his Method of Divine Government, Physi- 
cal and Moral. This was followed ten years later by The Intui- 
tions of the Mind, Inductively Investigated, and in 1862 by The 
Supernatural in Relation to the Natural. Meanwhile, in 1852, he 
had become a professor of philosophy in Queen's College, Bel- 
fast. McCosh came to America as the president of the College 
of New Jersey in 1868. 

An additional reason for the neglect of McCosh may be that 
he came to America at a time when the philosophy which lie 
taught, already outmoded, had a slightly antique flavor. Scottish 
realism did not find in him so much a source as a culmination 
and crvstallization. This fact, however, makes him all the more 


worthy of study, for we find in him perhaps the most articulate 
summary of American academic philosophy in the first three- 
quarters of the century. He remained at Princeton nearly twenty 
years and exerted during that time a very great influence as a 
teacher and a preacher. There was a blunt dogmatism about 
McCosh which suited well the temper of the time. He had the 
courage of unwavering conviction combined with a ready pen 
and great expository power. 

In 1875 he published The Scottish Philosophy, Biographical, 
Expository, Critical, from Hutcheson to Hamilton. He declared 
that in bringing Scottish philosophy to America he was engaged 
in a "labor of love." "The English-speaking public, British and 
American, has of late been listening to diverse forms of philos- 
ophy—to Coleridge, to Kant, to Cousin, to Hegel, to Comte, to 
Berkeley— and is now inclined to a materialistic psychology. Not 
finding permanent satisfaction in any of these, it is surely pos- 
sible that it may grant a hearing to the sober philosophy of 
Scotland." (Preface.) 

Halfway through the book (p. 1S3), he recognized John 
Witherspoon as the man who "introduced Scottish thought into 
the new world." It is in this connection that he declared that 
"idealism has never struck deep into the American soil." He 
meant Berkeley's idealism, of which he was contemptuous. Re- 
turning to the point many years later in the introduction to his 
Realistic Philosophy (1887), he said, "America has arrived at 
a stage at which there is a body of men and women who have 
leisure and taste to cultivate the liberal arts and advance the 
higher forms of civilization. . . . The time has come, I believe, 
for America to declare her independence in philosophy. She will 
not be disposed to set up a new monarch, but she may establish 
a republic confederated like the United States. . . . But what 
is to be the nature of the new philosophic republic formed of 
united states? ... If a genuine American philosophy arises, it 
must reflect the genius of the people. Now, Yankees are distin- 
guished from most others by their practical observation and 
invention. They have a pretty clear notion of what a thing is, 



and, if it is of value, they take steps to secure it. It follows 
that, if there is to be an American philosophy, it must be 
Realistic. I suspect that they will never produce an Idealistic 
philosophy like that of Plato in ancient times, or speculative 
systems like those of Spinoza, Leibnitz, and Hegel in modern 
times. The circumstance that Emerson is an American may seem 
to contradict this, but then Emerson, while he opens interesting 
glimpses of truth, is not a philosopher; his thoughts are like 
strung pearls, without system and without connection. On the 
other hand, the Americans believe that there are things to be 
known, to be prized and secured, and will never therefore look 
approvingly on an agnosticism which declares that knowledge 
is unattainable. The American philosophy will therefore be a 
Realism, opposed to Idealism on the one hand and to Agnosti- 
cism on the other" (pp. 1-4). 

The work which most secured for McCosh the attention of 
the academic world was The Intuitions of the Mind, Inductively 
Investigated. In it we find his systematic philosophy. Though 
he lived and wrote for half an ordinary lifetime after the publi- 
cation of his chief work, he spent his energies in support and 
defense of the dogma announced in it. He was the kind of 
man who does not modify his position very much once it is 
taken. His style is clear, cogent, direct, simple. The effect upon 
the reader is to establish conviction rather than awaken doubt. 
Subtle dialectic is absent; in its stead we find blunt, explicit, 
straightforward discourse, neatly arranged under heads and sub- 

He held that the intuitions of the mind are direct, immediate 
perceptions of a real objective order. However complex the 
object may be, the intuition as such is simple. It seizes its 
object directly, whether the object be sensory, relational, or 
abstract. There is no error possible at this primitive level of 
knowledge. Error arises out of false association and inference, 
and therefore it can be corrected by additional and more care- 
ful observation. 

The laws of intuition are revealed in its exercise. The exer- 


cise of intuition exhibits native human aptitudes for dealing 
with a real world; these are "regulative" in character and widely 
distributed among men. The healthy or normal mind is equipped 
to know in much the same sense that any other natural entity 
is equipped to function according to inherent characteristics 
or attributes. McCosh warned his readers that intuitions are not 
to be confused with vague and cloudy feelings, premonitions, 
and the like. While they are in some sense ultimate and inex- 
plicable, there is no mystery about them. It is the nature of a 
mind to know, much as it is the nature of a body to gravitate. 
In his statement that the intuitions are "regulative," he does not 
mean that they regulate conduct but knowledge; i.e., they are 
basic points of reference in knowledge. He does not follow Kant 
and Hamilton in the supposition that the mind is shut off from 
its objects. (3rd edition, p. 36, n. 1.) He holds rather that it is 
joined to its object in the operation of knowing. 

In following McCosh it is important to remember that he 
was seeking to avoid Hume's skepticism on the one hand and 
Kant's "idealism" on the other. Space, time, cause, and the other 
categories are not mere forms of the isolated mind, but princi- 
ples of union between thought and things intuitively present 
in the act of knowing. Though the primitive intuitions of the 
mind are particular, they are not confined to objects of sense 
impression, but include apprehensions of simple and complex 
relations and systematic wholes. He would have agreed with 
William James that we apprehend relations as such. 

His treatment of the problems of induction is significant, 
though far from profound. "We have truth," he declares, "when 
our ideas are conformed to things." (Realistic Philosophy, I, 30.) 
It follows that there is no high a priori road to such a truth, but 
only the way of patient observation of facts one by one. Among 
these facts, however, he believes that we find direct intuitions 
of causation and the uniformity of nature. The way to remedy 
the faults of knowledge is not to leap to conclusions but to study 
cases. What we call chance is a name for our ignorance, but 
"there is another sense in which it may be said that there is 
such a thing as chance. There cannot be an occurrence without 



a purpose on the part of God, who has ordered the causes 
producing it. But there may be a concurrence without a design." 
(Ibid., I, 79. Italics mine.) 

His treatment of induction is significant because it clearly 
enunciates some of the basic contentions of realistic logics. 
Speaking of metaphysics, he wrote, "Like every other science 
which has to do with facts, it must be conducted in the Induc- 
tive method, in which observation is the first process, and the 
last process, and the main process throughout; the process with 
which we start, and the process by which we advance all along, 
and at the close test all that is done; but in which, at the same 
time, analysis and generalization are employed as instruments, 
always working, however, on facts observed." (The Intuitions of 
the Mind, 3rd edition, pp. 282, 283.) 

Causation, he contended, is multiple and admits of the dis- 
tinction made by Aristotle. Each of the "four causes"— material, 
efficient, formal, and final— plays an indispensable part in the 
order of things. The mistake of mechanism is in supposing that 
because efficient causes can be shown to be always present, 
final causes are excluded as redundant. As a matter of fact, the 
two may be co-extensive and, to this degree, independent. 

The outline of McCosh's metaphysics follows, almost point 
by point, the outline of his epistemology. Things are what they 
appear to be, although they are very much more than they 
appear in any intuition or series of intuitions. There are bodies 
in space and time related to each other in various ways; there 
are minds related to each other and to bodies; and there are 
classes, mathematical forms, and moral obligations very much 
as the plain man supposes. McCosh side-stepped the subtle net 
of antinomies. He found no serious difficulty in the union of 
induction and deduction, the understanding and reason, faith 
and knowledge, thought and things, because he made the initial 
assumption that our knowledge is a knowledge of objects. 

His ethical doctrine was likewise beautifully simple. The 
intuitions of moral obligation are direct and unambiguous. He 
shared the orthodox moral-sense hedonism, and theocratic op- 
timism of his Scottish colleagues. Certitude in morals is at 


bottom immediate, self-evident knowledge, as it is in all other 
realms of man's inquiry. If he keeps his eyes open and looks 
sharply, man need not go astray. With his confidence in the 
reality of final causes, McCosh could assert with entire con- 
viction, "As the ages roll on there is a greater fullness of sentient 
life, and a larger capacity of happiness." (Realistic Philosophy, 
I, 162.) 

Notwithstanding the somewhat archaic simplicity of Mc- 
Cosh's realism, there are features of it which have special 
interest for the student of the subsequent history of ideas in 
America. For example, his declaration that advance in philos- 
ophy is to be made by following the method and spirit of the 
natural sciences is an early expression of what has come to be 
almost a ritual with later realists. He also argued that the prob- 
lems of philosophy must be clearly and precisely defined in 
order to limit the scope of the inquiry, and thus make the appli- 
cation of scientific method possible. His treatment of chance, 
though brief and unsatisfactory, reminds the reader that this 
problem was taking root in American philosophy. McCosh had 
a strong metaphysical bias and in numerous ways displayed the 
growing concern with chance as a metaphysical rather than as 
a merely logical problem. There are distinct "pragmatisms" to 
be found in the pages of McCosh. Thus we read, "The two, 
knowledge and faith, differ psychologically, and there are im- 
portant psychological ends to be served by distinguishing them; 
but after all it is more important to fix our attention on their 
points of agreement and coincidence. The belief has a basis of 
cognition, the cognition has a superstructure of beliefs." (In- 
tuitions of the Mind, p. 172.) Throughout his writing, there is 
revealed a deep suspicion of the shadow-boxing of epistemolog- 
ical dialectic. He cuts straight through verbal antinomies with a 
distinction between methodology and result in science. He sees 
that hypothesis is an instrument for the discovery of evidence, 
but that evidence is more than verbal— that in the activity of 
knowing we grapple directly with a recalcitrant objectivity. 1 

1 For the source of this biographical sketch and a discussion of 
McCosh's criticism of John Stuart Mill see my Introduction. (Editor's 
note. ) 


Characteristics of the Scottish School and 

Comparison of It With the Critical 

Philosophy of Kant 

By James McCosh 

This selection is taken from James McCosh's Realistic Philosophy, 
Vol. II, Historical and Critical (New York: Macmillan and Company, 
1887), pp. 181-86 and 239-44. Compare this with the selection 
from Sir William Hamilton, pp. 220 ff. 

I. It proceeds throughout by observation. It has all along pro- 
fessed a profound reverence for Bacon, and in its earliest works 
it attempted to do for metaphysics what Newton had done for 
physics. It begins with facts and ends with facts. Between, it has 
analyses, generalizations, and reasonings; but all upon the actual 
operations of the mind. Its laws are suggested by facts and are 
verified by facts. It sets out, as Bacon recommends, with the 
necessary "rejections and exclusions," with what Whewell calls 
the "decomposition of facts," but all to get at the exact facts 
it means to examine. Its generalizations are formed by observing 
the points in which the operations of the mind agree, and it 
proceeds gradually— gradatim, as Bacon expresses it— rising from 
particulars to generals, and from lower to higher laws. It is 
afraid of rapid and high speculation, lest it carry us like a 
balloon, not into the heavens, but into a cloud, where it will 
explode sooner or later. It is suspicious of long and complicated 
ratiocinations like those of Spinoza and Hegel, for it is sure- 
such is human fallibility— that there will lurk in them some error 
or defect in the premise, or some oversight or weak link in the 
process, weakening the whole chain. Thomas Reid was not sure 
whether Samuel Clarke's demonstration of the existence of God 
was more distinguished for ingenuity than sublimity. 

II. It observes the operations of the mind by the inner sense- 
that is, consciousness. In this philosophy consciousness, the 


perception of self in its various states, comes into greater prom- 
inence than it had ever done before. Bacon did not appreciate 
its importance; he recommended in the study of the human mind 
the gathering of instances, to be arranged in tables, of memory, 
judgment, and the like. Descartes appealed to consciousness, 
but only to get a principle such as cogito, to be used in deduc- 
tion, ergo sum; in which sum there is an idea of an infinite, a 
perfect. Locke was ever appealing to internal observation, but 
it was to support a preconceived theory that all our ideas are 
derived from sensation and reflection. Turnbull and Hutcheson 
and Reid were the first to avow and declare that the laws of 
the human mind were to be discovered only by internal observa- 
tion, and that mental philosophy consisted solely in the con- 
struction of these. They held that consciousness, the internal 
sense, was as much to be trusted as the external senses; and 
that as we can form a natural philosophy out of the facts fur- 
nished by the one, we can construct a mental philosophy by the 
facts furnished by the other. They held resolutely that the eye 
cannot see our thoughts and feelings even when aided by the 
microscope or telescope. They were sure that no man ever 
grasped an idea by his muscular power, tasted the beauty of a 
rose or lily, smelt an emotion, or heard the writhings of the 
conviction of conscience. But they thought that the mind could 
observe the world within by consciousness more directly and 
quite as accurately as it could observe the world without by 
sight, touch, and the other senses, and could in the one case 
as in the other make a scientific arrangement of its observa- 
tions and construct a science. 

III. By observation principles are discovered which are above 
observation, universal and eternal. All the genuine masters and 
followers proceed on this principle, and apply it more or less 
successfully. I am not sure that they have expressly avowed it 
and explicitly stated it. I am responsible for the form which is 
given it at the head of this paragraph. No man can understand 
or appreciate or do justice to the philosophy of Scotland who 
does not notice it as running through and through their whole 


investigations and conclusions. It was in this way that Reid 
opposed Hume. It was in this way that Dugald Stewart, and 
indeed the whole school, sought to lay a foundation on which all 
truth might be built. They were fond of representing the princi- 
ples as fundamental, and they guarded against all erroneous, 
against all extravagant and defective statements and applica- 
tions of them, by insisting that they be shown to be in the con- 
stitution of the mind, and that their nature be ascertained 
before they are employed in speculation of any kind. By insist- 
ing on this restriction, their mode of procedure has been de- 
scribed as timid, and their results as mean and poor, by those 
speculators who assume a principle without a previous induc- 
tion, and mount up with it, wishing to reach the sky, but stayed 
in the clouds. By thus holding that there are truths above and 
prior to our observation of them, they claim and have a place 
in the brotherhood of our higher philosophers, such as Plato 
and Aristotle in ancient times, Descartes, Leibnitz, and Kant 
in modern times. 

They present these principles in the mind under various 
aspects and in different names. Reid called them principles of 
common sense in the mind itself, and common to all men. Ham- 
ilton defended the use of the phrase common sense. I am not 
sure it is the best one, as it includes two meanings: one, good 
sense, of mighty use in the practical affairs of life; and the other, 
first principles in the minds of all men, in which latter sense 
alone it can be legitimately employed in philosophy. He also 
calls them, happily, reason in the first degree, which discerns 
truth at once, as distinguished from reason in the second degree, 
which discovers truth by arguing. Stewart represented them as 
"fundamental laws of human thought and belief," and is com- 
mended for this by Sir James Mackintosh, who is so far a 
member of the school. Thomas Brown represented them as in- 
tuitions, a phase I am fond of, as it presents the mind as looking 
into the nature of things. Perhaps the phrase "intuitive reason," 
used by Milton when he talks of "reason intuitive and discur- 
sive," might be as good a phrase as any by which to designate 
these primary principles. Hamilton, who sought to add the 


philosophy of Kant to that of Reid, often without his being 
able to make them cohere, sometimes uses the Scotch phrases, 
and at other times the favorite Kantian designation, a priori. 
I remember how Dr. Chalmers, who was truly of the Scottish 
school, was delighted in his advanced years, on becoming ac- 
quainted with the German philosophy through Morell's History 
of Philosophy, to find that there was a wonderful correspond- 
ence between the a priori principles of Kant and the funda- 
mental laws of Stewart. 

I may be allowed to add, that having before me the views 
and the nomenclature of all who hold by these primary princi- 
ples, I have ventured to specify their characteristics, and this in 
the proper order: 

First, they look at things external and internal. They are 
not forms or laws in the mind apart from things. They are 
intuitions of things. Under this view they are self-evident, 
which is their first mark. The truth is perceived at once by look- 
ing at things. I perceive self within and body without by barely 
looking at them. I discover that two straight lines cannot en- 
close a space, that benevolence is good, that cruelty is evil, by 
simply contemplating the things. Secondly, they are necessary. 
This I hold with Aristotle, Leibnitz, Kant, and most profound 
thinkers. Being self-evident, we must hold them, and cannot be 
made to think or believe otherwise. Thirdly, they are universal, 
being entertained by all men. 

But it is asked, How do you reconcile your one element with 
the other— your observation with your truth anterior to observa- 
tion? I do hold with the whole genuine Scottish school, that 
there are principles in the mind called common sense, primary 
reason, intuition, prior to and independent of our observation 
of them. But I also hold, and this in perfect consistency, that 
it is by observation we discover them, that they exist, and what 
they are. I have found it difficult to make some people under- 
stand and fall in with this distinction. Historians and critics of 
philosophy are apt to divide all philosophies into two grand 
schools, the a priori and a posteriori, or in other words, the 
rational and the experiential. They are utterly averse to call in 


a third school, which would disturb all their classifications, and 
thus trouble them, and require the authors among them, especi- 
ally the followers of Kant or Cousin, to rewrite all they have 
written. They do not know very well what to make of the 
Scottish school, and I may add of the great body of American 
thinkers, who will not just fall into either one or other of their 
grand trunk-divisions. In particular, when they condescend to 
notice the author of this paper they feel as if they do not know 
what to make of him. "Are you," they ask, "of the a posteriori 
or empirical school? You seem as if you are so, you are con- 
stantly appealing to facts and experience. If so, you have no 
right to appeal to or call in a priori principles, which can never 
be established by a limited observation. But you are inconsist- 
ently ever bringing in necessary and universal principles, such as 
those of cause and effect, and moral good." Or they attack me 
at the other horn of the dilemma. "You hold rather by a priori 
principles; you are ever falling back on principles, self-evident, 
necessary, and universal, on personality, on identity, on sub- 
stance and quality, causation, on the good and the infinite." I 
have sometimes felt as if I were placed between two contending 
armies, exposed to the fire of both. Yet I believe I am able to 
keep and defend my position. Now I direct a shot at the one 
side, say at John S. Mill, and at other times a shot at the other 
side, say at Kant— not venturing to attack Hegel, who is in a 
region which my weapons can never reach. They pay little atten- 
tion to me, being so engrossed with fighting each other. But 
I do cherish the hope that when each of the sides finds it 
impossible to extinguish the other they may become weary of 
the fight, look for the juste milieu, and turn a favorable look 
toward the independent place which the Scotch and the great 
body of the Americans who think on these subjects are occupy- 
ing. We invite you to throw down your arms, and come up to 
the peaceful height which we occupy. Hither you may bring all 
the wealth you have laid up in your separate positions, and here 
it will be safe. You have here primitive rocks strong and deep 
as the granite on which to rest it, and here you may add to 
it riches gathered from as wide regions as your ken can reach, 


and establish a city which can never be moved or shaken. . . . 

Sir James Mackintosh and Dr. Chalmers, who were trained 
in the Scottish school, upon becoming somewhat acquainted in 
mature life with the German system, were greatly interested 
to notice the points of resemblance between the two philoso- 
phies. The two— the Scotch and the German— agree, and they 
differ. Each has a fitting representative: the one in Thomas Reid 
and the other in Immanuel Kant. The one was a careful ob- 
server, guided by common sense— with the meaning of good 
sense— suspicious of high speculations as sure to have error lurk- 
ing in them, and shrinking from extreme positions; the other was 
a powerful logician, a great organizer and systematizer, follow- 
ing his principles to their consequences, which he was ever 
ready to accept, avow, and proclaim. The two have very im- 
portant points of agreement. Reid and Kant both lived to oppose 
Hume, the great sceptic, or, as he would be called in the present 
day, agnostic. Both met him by calling in great mental princi- 
ples, which reveal and guarantee truth, which can never be set 
aside, and which have foundations deep as the universe. Both 
appeal to reason, which Reid called reason in the first degree, 
and the other pure reason. The one presents this reason to us 
under the name of common sense— that is, the powers of intel- 
ligence common to all men; the other, as principles necessary 
and universal. The one pointed to laws, native and fundamental; 
the other, to forms in the mind. The one carefully observed these 
by consciousness and sought to unfold their nature; the other 
determined their existence by a criticism, and professes to give 
an inventory of them. All students should note these agreements 
as confirmatory of the truth of both. 

The Scotch and German people do so far agree, while they 
also differ. Both have a considerable amount of broad sense, 
and, I may add, of humor; but the Scotch have greater clear- 
ness of thinking, and the Germans of attractive idealism. Scot- 
land and Germany, in the opinion of foreigners, are not very far 
distant from each other. But between them there roars an ocean 
which is often very stormy. I proceed to specify the differences 
of the two philosophies. 


First, they differ in their Method. The Scotch follows the 
Inductive Method as I have endeavored to explain it. The Ger- 
man has created and carried out the Critical Method, which 
has never been very clearly explained and examined. It main- 
tains that things are not to be accepted as they appear; they are 
to be searched and sifted. Pure reason, according to Kant, can 
criticize itself. But every criticism ought to have some princi- 
ples on which it proceeds. Kant, a professor of Logic, for- 
tunately adopted the forms of Logic which I can show had 
been carefully inducted by Aristotle, and hence has reached 
much truth. Others have adopted other principles, and have 
reached very different conclusions. The philosophies that have 
followed that of Kant in Germany have been a series of criti- 
cisms, each speculator setting out with his own favorite princi- 
ple—say with the universal ego, or intuition, or identity, or the 
absolute— and, carrying it out to its consequences, it has become 
so inextricably entangled, that the cry among young men is, "Out 
of this forest, and back to the clearer ground occupied by Kant." 
The Scottish philosophy has not been able to form such lofty 
speculations as the Germans, but the soberer inductions it has 
made may contain quite as much truth. 

Secondly, the one starts with facts, internal and external, 
revealed by the senses, inner and outer. It does not profess to 
prove these by mediate reasoning: it assumes them, and shows 
that it is entitled to assume them; it declares them as self- 
evident. The other, the German school, starts with phenomena— 
not meaning facts to be explained (as physicists understand 
the phrase), but appearances. The phrase was subtilely intro- 
duced by Hume, and was unfortunately accepted by Kant. Let 
us, he said, or at least thought, accept, what Hume grants, 
phenomena, and guard the truth by mental forms— forms of 
sense, understanding, and reason. Our knowledge of bodies and 
their actions, our knowledge even of our minds and their opera- 
tions, is phenomenal. Having assumed only phenomena, he 
never could rise to anything else. Having only phenomena in his 
premises he never could reach realities in his conclusions except 
by a palpable paralogism, which he himself saw and acknowl- 


edged. We human beings are phenomena in the unknown and 
unknowable of Herbert Spencer, implying no doubt a known, 
but which never can be known by us. We all know that Locke, 
though himself a most determined realist, laid down principles 
which led logically to the idealism of Berkeley. In like manner, 
Kant, though certainly no agnostic, has laid down a principle in 
his phenomenal theory which has terminated logically in agnos- 
ticism. We meet all this by showing that appearances properly 
understood are things appearing, and not appearances without 

Thirdly, the two differ in that the one supposes that our per- 
ceptive powers reveal to us things as they are, whereas the other 
supposes that they add to things. According to Reid and the 
Scottish school, our consciousness and our senses look at once 
on real things; not discovering all that is in them, but perceiv- 
ing them under the aspect in which they are presented— say this 
table as a colored surface perceived by a perceiving mind. 
According to Kant and the German school, the mind adds to the 
things by its own forms. Kant said we perceive appearances 
under the forms of space and time superimposed by the mind, 
and judge by categories, and reach higher truth by ideas of 
pure reason, all of them subjective. Fichte gave consistency to 
the whole by making these same forms create things. 

Our thinking youth in the English and French speaking 
countries having no very influential philosophy at this present 
time, and no names to rule them, are taking longing looks 
towards Germany. When circumstances admit, they go a year 
or two to a German university— to Berlin or to Leipsic. There 
they get into a labyrinth of showy and binding forms, and have 
to go on in the paths opened to them. They return with an 
imposing nomenclature, and clothed with an armor formidable 
as the panoply of the middle ages. They write papers and 
deliver lectures which are read and listened to with the pro- 
foundest reverence— some, however, doubting whether all these 
distinctions are as correct as they are subtle, whether these 
speculations are as sound as they are imposing. All students 
may get immeasurable good from the study of the German 


philosophy. I encourage my students to go to Germany for a 
time to study. But let them meanwhile maintain their independ- 
ence. They may be the better for a clew to help them out of 
the labyrinth when they are wandering. The children of Israel 
got vast good in the wilderness as they wandered: saw wonders 
in the pillar of cloud and fire, in the waters issuing from the 
rock, and the manna on the ground; but they longed all the 
while to get into a land of rest, with green fields and living 
rivers. We may all get incalculable good from German specula- 
tion, but let us bring it all to the standard of consciousness and 
of fact, which alone can give us security and rest. 

I am quite aware that a large body of speculators will look 
down with contempt on the sober views I have been expound- 
ing, and not think it worth their while to examine them. Meta- 
physical youths from Britain and America, who have passed a 
year or two at a German university, and have there been listen- 
ing to lectures in which the speaker passed along so easily, and 
without allowing a word of cross-examination, such phrases as 
subject and object, form and matter, a priori and a posteriori, 
real and phenomenon and noumenon, will wonder that any one 
should be satisfied to stay on such low ground as I have done, 
while they themselves are on such elevated heights. But I can 
bear their superciliousness without losing my temper, and I 
make no other retort than that of Kant on one occasion, "that 
their master is milking the he-goat while they are holding the 
sieve." * I am sure that the agnostics, whether of the philosophi- 
cal or physiological schools, will resent my attempt to give 
knowledge so firm a foundation. I may not have influence myself 
to stop the crowd which is moving on so exultingly; I may be 
thrown down by the advancing calvacade; but I am sure I see 
the right road to which men will have to return sooner or later; 

1 President McCosh did not know that this saying, made famous by 
Kant, was borrowed by him from the cynic philosopher Demonax. See my 
essay: "Kant and Demonax— A Footnote to the History of Philosophy," in 
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. X, pp. 374-79. Reprinted 
in my Crucial Issues in Philosophy (Boston: Christopher Publishing 
House), Chap. XXVII. (Editor's note.) 


and I am satisfied if only I have opened a gate ready for those 
who come to discover that the end of their present broad path 
is darkness and nihilism. 

First and Fundamental Truths 

By James McCosh 

This selection is taken from James McCosh's Realistic Philosophy, 
Vol. I, Expository (New York: Macmillan and Company, 1887), pp. 
33-41. Compare this with the selection from Dugald Stewart, pp. 
173 ff. 

The mind must start with something. There are things which 
it knows at once. I know pleasure and pain. I do more: I know 
myself as feeling pleasure and pain. I know that I am sur- 
rounded with material objects extended and exercising proper- 
ties. I know by barely contemplating them that these two 
straight lines cannot contain a space. These are called first truths. 
There must be first truths before there can be secondary ones; 
original before there can be derivative ones. Can we discover 
and enunciate these? I believe we can. 

We are not at liberty, indeed, to appeal to a first principle 
when we please, or because it suits our purpose. When we are 
left without evidence, we are not therefore allowed to allege that 
we need no evidence. When we are defeated in argument, we 
are not to be permitted to escape by falling back on what is 
unproved and unprovable. It is true that we cannot prove every- 
thing, for this would imply an infinite chain of proofs every 
link of which would hang on another, while the whole would 
hang on nothing— that is, be incapable of proof. We cannot 
prove everything by mediate evidence, but we can show that 
we are justified in assuming certain things. We cannot prove that 
two straight lines cannot enclose a space, but we can show that 


we are justified in saying so. We can do so by the application 
of certain tests. 

Self-evidence is the primary test of that kind of truth which 
we are entitled to assume without mediate proof. We perceive 
the object to exist by simply looking at it. The truth shines in 
its own light, and in order to see we do not require light to 
shine upon it from any other quarter. We are conscious directly 
of self as understanding, as thinking, or as feeling, and we need 
no indirect evidence. Thus, too, we perceive by the eye a col- 
ored surface, and by the muscular touch a resisting object, and 
by the moral sense the evil of hypocrisy. The proof is seen by 
the contemplative mind in the things themselves. We are con- 
vinced that we need no other proof. A proffered probation from 
any other quarter would not add to the strength of our convic- 
tion. We do not seek any external proof, and if any were pressed 
upon us we would feel it to be unnecessary— nay, to be an en- 
cumbrance, and almost an insult to our understanding. 

But let us properly understand the nature of this self-evi- 
dence. It has constantly been misunderstood and misrepresented. 
It is not a mere feeling or an emotion belonging to the sensitive 
part of our nature. It is not a blind instinct or a belief in what 
we cannot see. It is not above reason or below reason; it is an 
exercise of primary reason prior, in the nature of things, to 
any derivative exercises. It is not, as Kant represents it, of 
the nature of a form in the mind imposed on objects contem- 
plated and giving them a shape and color. It is a perception, it 
is an intuition of the object. We inspect these two straight lines, 
and perceive them to be such in their nature that they cannot 
enclose a space. If two straight lines go on for an inch with- 
out coming nearer each other, we are sure they will be no 
nearer if lengthened millions of miles as straight lines. On con- 
templating deceit we perceive the act to be wrong in its very 
nature. It is not a mere sentiment, such as we feel on the con- 
templation of pleasure and pain; it is a knowledge of an object. 
It is not the mind imposing or superinducing on the thing what 
is not in the thing; it is simply the mind perceiving what is in 
the thing. It is not merely subjective, it is also objective— to use 


phrases very liable to be misunderstood; or, to speak clearly, 
the perceiving mind (subject) perceives the thing (object). 
This is the most satisfactory of all evidence; and this because 
in it we are immediately cognizant of the thing. There is no 
evidence so ready to carry conviction. We cannot so much as 
conceive or imagine any evidence stronger. 

Necessity is a secondary criterion. It has been represented by 
Leibnitz and many metaphysicians as the first and the essential 
test. This I regard as a mistake. Self-evidence comes first, and 
the other follows and is derived from it. We perceive an object 
before us and we know so much of its nature; and we cannot 
be made to believe that there is no such object, or that it is not 
what we know it to be. I demur to the idea so often pressed 
upon us that we are to believe a certain proposition because 
we are necessitated to believe in it. This sounds too much like 
fatality to be agreeable to the free spirit of man. It is because 
we are conscious of self that we cannot be made to believe 
that we do not exist. The account given of the principle by 
Herbert Spencer is a perverted and a vague one: all proposi- 
tions are to be accepted as unquestionable whose negative is 
inconceivable. This does not give us a direct criterion, as self- 
evidence does, and the word inconceivable is very ambiguous. 
But necessity, while it is not the primary, is a potent secondary 
test. The self-evidence convinces us; the necessity prevents us 
from holding any different conviction. 

Universality is the tertiary test. By this is meant that it is 
believed by all men. It is the argument from catholicity, or 
common consent— the sensus communis. All men are found to 
assent to the particular truth when it is fairly laid before them, 
as, for instance, that the shortest distance between two points 
is a straight line. It would not be wise nor safe to make this 
the primary test, as some of the ancients did. For, in the com- 
plexity of thought, in the constant actual mixing up of experien- 
tial with immediate evidence, it is difficult to determine what all 
men believe. It is even conceivable that all men might be de- 
ceived by reason of the deceitfulness of the faculties and the 
illusive nature of things. But this tertiary comes in to corrobo- 


rate the primary test, or rather to show that the proposition can 
stand the primary test which proceeds on the observation of 
the very thing, in which it is satisfactory to find that all men are 

Combine these and we have a perfect means of determining 
what are first truths. The first gives us a personal assurance of 
which we can never be deprived; the second secures that we 
cannot conquer it; the third that we can appeal to all men as 
having the same conviction. The first makes known realities; 
the second restrains us from breaking off from them; the third 
shows that we are surrounded with a community of beings to 
whom we can address ourselves in the assurance of meeting with 
a response. 

But in order to be able to apply these criteria properly we 
must carry along with us certain explanations and limitations. 

1. It should be noticed of intuitive truths that they are, in 
the first instance, individual or singular, and that we need to 
generalize the single perceptions in order to reach general max- 
ims. In them we begin with contemplating a single object, say 
an external object, and know it to be extended and solid, or 
an act of benevolence and know it to be good, or an act of 
cruelty and proclaim it to be evil. But we can generalize the 
individual perceptions, and then we have general maxims or 
axioms, which we can apply to an infinite number of cases. We 
perceive that these two parallel lines will never meet; and we 
are sure that we should affirm the same of every other set of 
parallel lines, and hence we reach the general maxim that par- 
allel lines will never meet. We perceive, on the bare contempla- 
tion of this deed of deceit, that it is base, but we would feel 
the same of every other deed of deceit, and hence the maxim 
deceit is evil. But it should be observed that in the formation 
of these general principles there is a discursive act, in the shape 
of a generalizing process, involved. It is here that there may 
creep in error, which is not in the intuitive but in the dis- 
cursive process; for we may form a partial, a one-sided, or 
exaggerated generalization. Thus, on discovering a particular 
effect we at once judge or decide that it has a cause. But when 


we would make the principle universal we may fall into a 
mistake, and declare that "everything has a cause," which would 
require an infinite series of causes and make it necessary to 
hold that God himself has a cause. In such a case our generali- 
zation is wrong. But let the maxim take the form that "every- 
thing which begins to be has a cause," and we perceive that on 
a thing presenting itself to us as beginning we should proclaim 
it to have had a producing power. We thus see that there may 
be both truth and error in our metaphysical or moral maxims: 
truth in the primitive perception at the basis of the whole, while 
there may be hastiness leading to mutilation in the expression. 
Hence the wrangling in metaphysics. Thus, everybody acknowl- 
edges that two parallel lines can never meet, but there may be 
disputes as to the fit form in which to put the axiom. So, in re- 
gard to the generalized principles that every effect has a cause, 
that every quality implies a substance, that virtue is commend- 
able, there may be a difficulty in expressing exactly what is 
meant by cause and effect, what by substance and quality, and 
what by virtue and moral good; and we may find that when 
we would make the expressions definite we fall into grievous 
mistakes, and this while we are certain that there is a self- 
evident, necessary, and universal truth if only we can seize it. 

2. First truths are of various kinds, which we shall endeavor 
to classify. Some of them are 

Primitive Cognitions. In these the object is now before us, 
and is perceived by us. We perceive that this body has three 
dimensions in space, and cannot be made to believe otherwise. 
We decide that this thing, material or mental, cannot be and 
not be at the same time; that these two things, being each equal 
to the same thing, are equal to one another. In these cases the 
object is perceived at once and immediately. But there are 
others in which the object is not present, and the convictions 
may be regarded as 

Primitive Beliefs. Here there is still an object. It is not 
present, but still it is contemplated. We have known the object 
somehow, and on conceiving it beliefs become attached to it. 
Thus, we know time in the concrete, and in regarding it we 
believe that time is continuous, that time past has run into 


time present, and that time present will run into time to come. 
A number of such faiths gather round our primitive cognitions 
and widen them indefinitely. We see two points in space; we 
are sure there is space between, and that the shortest line 
between the two is a straight line. We can rise to still higher 
faiths. We believe of certain objects, say space and time, and 
God— when we come to know him— that they are infinite, that 
is, that they are always beyond our widest image or concept 
and such that nothing can be added to or taken from them. The 
senses cannot give us these beliefs, nor can the understanding 
construct them out of the materials supplied by the senses. Some 
of them, such as the idea of the infinite, the perfect, lift us 
above our immediate experience into a higher sphere. We begin 
in all such cases with realities perceived or apprehended; and 
we are sure, if we proceed legitimately, that we end with real- 
ities. It should be remarked that in order to our having these 
cognitions and beliefs it is not necessary to express them or even 
put them in the shape of propositions. It is necessary first to 
have cognitions or beliefs regarding them before we form com- 
parisons of them or affirm that they exist or possess certain 
properties. But out of these we can form 

Primitive Judgments, in which we predicate— that is, make 
affirmations or denials— or discover certain properties or rela- 
tions, as when we say space and time are without bounds and 
exist independent of the contemplative mind. In order that these 
judgments may be primitive they must be pronounced as to 
objects which have been perceived by intuition. 

I ought here to add that the mind is capable of perceiving 
at once certain moral qualities, and we have 

Moral Cognitions, Beliefs, and Judgments. On contemplating 
an act as self-sacrifice done for a friend or a good cause we know 
it at once to be good, or an act of selfishness we perceive it 
to be evil. When these acts are done by our neighbors we cannot 
notice them directly, but we are sure that they are good or 
evil; and these may be regarded as beliefs. When we put them 
in propositions we exercise judgment, as when we declare that 
sin deserves punishment. 

But it will be asked, do we perceive the good and evil to 


be a reality, to be in the very thing. It might be allowed, it is 
urged, that intuitively we perceive matter to be extended and 
that two straight lines cannot enclose a space; for the matter, 
and the straight lines are before us. But moral excellence and 
depravity have no such reality, they exist only in our concep- 
tions. To all this I reply that we have the acts before us in 
the one case as in the other; we have before us every day a 
deed and an implied affection of benevolence or of cruelty, and 
in it we perceive the morally good or the morally evil. The 
benevolence in this act of charity has a reality quite as much 
as the hand that bestows the alms or the alms bestowed. The 
malevolence in this calumny is a reality, quite as much as the 
tongue that uttered it or the newspaper that published it. The 
reality is of a different kind, no doubt, but it is of a kind which 
all acknowledge when they approve of the charity and disap- 
prove of the scandal, and perhaps impose a penalty upon the 
person who has been guilty of it. 

It is of vast moment, to ourselves and to the community, 
that we and all others should acknowledge, theoretically and 
practically, that there are other realities besides those of sense, 
and these higher and more enduring. It is the worst influence of 
the prevailing agnosticism that while it can have little power 
to keep us from believing in the things that are seen, it may 
have a mighty influence in keeping us from believing in and 
realizing the things that are spiritual, and therefore unseen, but 
eternal. The idealist errs when he denies the reality of a material 
world which, though temporal, is real. But the sensualist errs 
far more egregiously when he denies the existence of a spiritual 
world, which is real and eternal. It should be the aim of the 
highest philosophy to carry us up, as Plato endeavored to do, 
to this high and pure region which has as high an existence as 
the heavens, which are its special dwelling-place. We should 
train ourselves, and especially train the young, to retreat from 
time to time into the higher world, that they may there hold 
communion with all that is great and good and elevating. 


absolute existence, 258 ff. 
activity, 36 f, 41, 127 ff. 
Addison, J., 32, 56. 
admiration, 101. 
agnoiology, 240 f., 252 ff. 
agnosticism, 266 f., 286. 
Alison, 156. 
anatomy, 160, 163. 
apprehension, simple, 125, 144 f. 
approval, moral, 39, 46 f., 59 f., 86 

ff., 92 ff., 197. 
Aquinas, St. Thomas, 20. 
architecture, 33. 
Aristotle, 20 f., 37, 41, 122, 167, 

187 f., 269, 273 f. 
art, 32 f. 
association of ideas, 65, 125, 152, 

192, 202, 218. 
Athanasius, St., 133. 
Austin, St., 238. 

Bacon, F., 54, 154, 160 f., 185, 271. 

Bain, A., 192. 

Baxter, A., 25. 

Beattie, J., 24, 170. 

beauty, sense of, 30, 33, 58, 101, 

110, 127, 156. 
belief, 142, 147, 162, 173 ff., 193, 

209, 270, 281. 
benevolence, 30, 43, 51, 53, 89. 
Bentham, J., 156. 
Berkeley, G., 26 f., 54, 118, 121 f., 

156, 165, 180, 182 i, 191, 200 

ff., 224. 
Bethany College, 8, 10, 21 ff. 
Blair, 131 ff. 

body-mind problem, 123, 160, 194. 
Bonnet, C, 177. 
Boodin, J. E., 197n. 
Bosanquet, B., 25. 
Bowen, F., 215. 
Bowne, B. P., 26. 
Brim, 184. 
Brown, T., 10 f., 24, 152, Ch. VI, 

184n, 216, 232 f., 273. 
Buffier, C, 120, 170. 

Cairns, J., 239. 

Calderwood, H., 220, 236 ff. 

Campbell, A., 8, 21, 23. 

Campbell, C, 25, 132, 162. 

Campbell, T., 8, 21. 

Carlyle, T., 9, 26. 

Carmichael, C, 29. 

causation, 16 f., 56, 64 ff., 119, 136 

f., 153, 192, 219 f., 223, 269. 
Chalmers, T., 25, 274, 276. 
chance, 61n, 270. 
children, 36 f., 39, 177. 
Cicero, 20, 45. 
Clarke, S., 8n, 165, 271. 
Clermont, Bishop of, 115. 
Cockburn, Lord, 152. 
cognition, 229 f., 246 f, 262 f.; see 

also knowledge. 
Collier, A., 214. 
common sense, 119 f., 126 f., 140, 

152, 155, 169 ff., 219, 273. 
Comte, A., 229 f. 
conation, 229 f. 

conception, 125, 154; see also idea, 
conceptualism, 125, 154, 218. 
Condillac, E., 177, 227. 
conditioned, 219. 
conscience, see also moral sense, 
consciousness, 20 f., 31, 62, 145, 

159, 175 f., 205 ff. 
contiguity, 65; see also association, 
continued existence, 72 f. 
Cousin, 151, 227, 236, 266, 275. 
Creighton, J. E., 25. 
Cudworth, R., 82. 
curiositv, 34. 
custom,' 67 f., 81, 118 f., 127. 

Darwin, E., 156, 162. 

Day, H. N., 215. 

demerit, 88. 

Demonax, 279n. 

Descartes, R., 20, 121, 139, 224, 

272 f. 
Diderot, D., 186. 
dignity, sense of, 40. 



Disciples of Christ, 8 f., 21 f. 
distinct existence, 72 f. 
du Perron, Cardinal, 221. 
duty, sense of, 83, 92 ff., 105 ff. 

East-West philosophy, 24. 
economics, 112, 157, 187. 
Edwards, J., 183. 
effects of acts, 51, 99. 
Emerson, R. W., 9, 26. 
emotions, 124 f., 128, 157, 195, 197, 

229 ff. 
Epicharmus, 181. 
epistemology, 240, 245 f., 269. 
etymology, 188. 
Euclid, 179, 257. 
existence, 260 ff. 

familiarity, 248 f. 

Farquhar, J., 132. 

Ferguson, A., 25, 151, 168. 

Ferrier, J. F., 26 f., Ch. VIII. 

Fichte, J. G., 225, 241. 

France, 8, 55 f., 151, 221, 226 f. 

Freud, S., 9. 

friend, 49, 104, 106. 

Garvie, S. A., 16. 

Gatto, S. L., 214. 

Gerard, 132. 

Germany, 226 f., 278 f. 

God, 40, 42, 44, 47 f., 51, 108 ff., 

115 f., 119, 181, 183, 193, 194 f., 

220, 238, 284. 
Grant, Sir Alexander, 239. 
gratitude, 88, 106. 
Greek, 188. 
Green, T. H., 25. 
Gregory, J., 132, 166. 
Gresham, P. E., 9 f., 21 f. 
Grieg, J. V. T., 18, 61. 

Hall, A., 204. 

Hamilton, Sir William, 19 f., 22, 

25 f., 29, 123, 130, 153, 157, 191, 

Ch. VII, 245, 273. 
Harris, W. T„ 25. 
Hartlev, D., 156, 167. 
Hegel,' 266, 271. 

Herbart, J. F., 192. 

Hertford, Lord, 55. 

Hierocles, 20. 

Hill, A., 204. 

Hindu philosophy, 24, 180 ff., 184 
ff., 198 ff. 

Hobbes, T., 79. 

honor, 39. 

Horace, 36. 

Howison, G. H., 25. 

Hume, D., 9, 15 ff., 24, 26, Ch. II, 
79, 118 f., 121, 127 f., 134 f., 
146 f., 153, 156, 162 f., 165, 167, 
180, 185, 192, 221 ff., 268, 273, 

Hutcheson, F., 17 f., Ch. I, 61, 79, 
82, 119 f., 266. 

idealism, absolute, 25 f., 226, 236 

ideas, 55, 61 ff., 135, 143, 161 f., 

199 ff. 
identity of self, 76 f., 174, 178, 

209 f. 
ignorance, 254 ff. 
imagination, 32, 125, 143, 193. 
imitation, 32 f., 156. 
immortality, 204. 
impression, 55, 61 ff. 
inductive principle, 22, 39 f., 134 f., 

155, 159, 219. 
internal senses, 30. 
intuitive principles, see principles. 

James, H., 22. 

Jesop, T. E., 16. 

Jones, Sir William, 24, 180 ff., 188 

ff., 198, 202. 
Jouffroy, T. S., 151, 227. 
judgment, 125 f., 218. 
justice, 58 f., 89, 115, 130. 

Karnes, Lord, 25, 122. 

Kant, E., 18 f., 24, 118, 153, 216, 

221, 223, 225, 229, 241, 266, 

268, 273, 281. 
Kierkegaard, S., 9. 
knowledge, 37, 46, 55, 70, 234 f.; 

see also cognition. 



language, 156, 188. 

Latin, 188. 

Laurie, H., 25. 

Leibnitz, G., 157, 223, 267, 273, 

liberty, 129, 220. 
Locke, J., 22, 30 f., 54, 81, 118, 

121 f!, 124 f., 128, 134 ff., 139, 

156 f., 165, 174, 185 f„ 194, 

223, 272. 
logic, 122, 155, 187, 216. 
logical positivism, 27, 186. 
Lushington, E. L., 239. 
Lycurgus, 32. 

McAllister, L., 21. 

McCosh, 22 f„ 25, Ch. IX. 

Mackintosh, Sir James, 24, 184 f., 
192, 273, 276. 

Maclaurin, 164. 

Macrobius, 20. 

Malebranche, 134. 

malice, 50. 

Mansel, H. G., 24, 215, 221. 

Manu, Laws of, 189. 

Marx, K., 9. 

materialism, 158 ff. 

mathematical affections, 153, 156. 

mathematics, 69, 120, 167, 174, 
178, 235, 257. 

maxims, 174. 

Maya, 181, 203. 

medical profession, 163, 194. 

memory, 124, 143, 162, 208 f., 212, 

merit, 88. 

Mikkelsen, H. A., 23, 54 f. 

Mill, J., 184n, 192. 

Mill, J. S., 25, 228, 192, 275. 

Milton, J., 273. 

mind, 210, 235; see also conscious- 
ness; self. 

Monbodo, Lord, 25. 

moral evil, degrees of, 48 f. 

moral sense, 29 f., 28 f., 45 ff., 
92 f., 95, 109 f., 129, 269 f. 

Morris, G. S., 23. 

motive, 99, 129. 

Muirhead, J. H., 25 f. 

Murray, J. C, 215. 
muscular sense, 191 f., 195. 
music, 32. 
myself, 75, 175, 206. 

natural signs, 122. 

nature, 72, 77 f., 108, 114, 145. 

necessity, idea of, 67 f., 127, 138. 

nescience, 256 f. 

Newton, Sir Isaac, 135, 159, 161, 

164, 173. 
nominalism, 125, 215. 
Non-Ego, 217. 

occult qualities, 164 f. 
omnificence, 183. 
ontology, 240 f., 254, 258 ff. 
Oswald, J., 24, 170. 
Owen, Robert, 8. 

Peisse, W., 214. 

perception, 54 f., 61 ff., 123 ff., 163 

ff., 202 ff., 225. 
phenomena, 277 f. 
philosophy, 140 f., 242 f. 
Plato, 19, 32, 181, 186, 262 f., 

273, 286. 
pleasure, 32 ff., 46 ff. 
Pons, Father, 187. 
Pope, A., 172, 199. 
Porter, N., 23 f., 27 f., 79 ff., 118 

ff., 151 ff., 184n, 190 ff., 214 ff., 

239 ff. 
power, idea of, 127, 134 f. 
Prevost, 151, 177. 
Price, R., 31, 156. 
Priestley, J., 156, 169. 
primitive beliefs, 281. 
primitive cognitions, 281. 
primitive judgments, 282. 
primitive universals, 284. 
Princeton University, 265 f. 
principles, 126, 128, 148 ff., 173, 

191, 211, 273 f., 280. 
probability, 70 f. 
psychology, 152, 216. 
Puffendorf, 29. 
Pyrrho, 198. 
Pythagoras, 186. 



quality, 65, 167. 

quantification of the predicate, 216. 

quantity, 120. 

realism, 125, 218, 267 f., 270 f. 
reason, 127, 137, 242 f., 251. 
redintegration, law of, 218. 
Reid, T., 8, 16 f., 18, 21, 25, 30, 

56, Ch. IV, 151, 153 ff., 157, 158 

ff., 190 f., 194, 198, 209 f., 216, 

224 f., 231 f., 271. 
relation, 65, 149. 
religion, 108 ff., 116 f., 222; see 

also God. 
remorse, 90. 
representative perception, 118 f., 

resentment, 88. 
retrospection, 212. 
Robertson, W., 153. 
Robinson, D. S., 8 f., 15 ff., 180 

ff.; and all editor's notes. 
Rousseau, J. J., 55. 
Royce, J., 26. 

Royer-Collard, 31, 151, 227. 
rules of morality, 110 ff. 

Sanscrit, 188. 

scepticism, 59 ff., 165, 186, 198 ff., 

222 ff. 
Schneider, H. W., 23, 183. 
Scotland, 8, 221 f., 246 ff. 
self, 74 f., 148, 208 ff., 234 f., 246 

f., 249 f. 
self-consciousness, 207 f., 216, 228 

ff., 233 ff., 249 ff. 
self-evidence, 281. 
selfishness, 43, 50 f., 87. 
self-love, 51 f., 94 f. 
self-sacrifice, 52. 
sensation, 142 f., 195, 205; see also 

Simon, L., 153. 
smell, 121, 141 f., 207. 
Smith, A., 9, 18, Ch. Ill, 153, 157. 
Smith, J., 239. 
Smith, N. K. 17 f., 25. 
society, 47, 58 f., 81, 104 f. 
space, 124, 216, 219. 
spectator, 34, 41, 81, 85 ff., 96 ff. 
Spencer, H., 192, 278, 282. 

Spinoza, B., 267, 271. 

Stewart, D., 17 f., 82 ff., 130, Ch. 

V, 190 f., 194, 231 f., 273, 280. 
succession, 66 f., 196, 206 ff.; see 

also time, 
suggestion, 30, 74, 119, 121, 149 f., 

191 f., 196 f., 216. 
syllogism, 16 f., 137, 187. 
sympathy, 35, 57 ff., 80 f., 84 ff., 

96 ff. 

time, 65 f., 124, 176, 211, 219, 284 

f.; see also succession. 
Tooke, H., 156. 
touch, 121 f., 150. 
Townsend, H. G., 23, 265 ff. 
Trembly, 170. 

truth, 242 ff., 260 f., 268, 283 ff. 
Turnbull, R., 214, 272. 

Ueberweg, F., 23. 

unconditioned, 214, 219, 236 ff. 

universality, 282. 

universals, 125. 

University of Edinburgh, 54, 151, 

190, 214, 265. 
University of Glasgow, 8, 29, 79, 

118, 265. 
utility, 34, 58, 83, 94 f., 101. 

Vedanta, 24, 180 ff. 

Veitch, J., 24, 82, 152, 215, 221. 

veracity, 42. 

virtue and vice: hierarchy of, 43 ff., 

86 f., 129 f.; origin of, 51 ff. 
vision, 122, 195. 
volitions, 192; see also will. 

Warner, C. D., 54. 
Watson, J., 25. 
Welch, D., 190. 
Whewell, W., 184n, 271. 
Wight, O. W., 22, 214, 236. 
Wilkins, Bishop, 167. 
Will, 43, 128, 192, 229 f.; see also 

Yale University, 23. 

Zoonomia of E. Darwin, 156, 161 
f., 190. 

(continued from front flap) 

finest patriots and businessmen have been ad- 
mittedly influenced by the thought of these 

This volume contains a significant portion of 
the legacy of wisdom the Scottish philosophers 
left to posterity. It is the compiler's primary 
aim in editing and annotating this compilation 
to arouse students from their intellectual ap- 
athy, to stimulate true Socratic discussion, to 
encourage active participation in that greatest 
joy of man — thinking. 

Each of the nine chapters of The Story of 
Scottish Philosophy is devoted to one philoso- 
pher, in this order: Francis Hutcheson, David 
Hume, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Dugald 
Stewart, Thomas Brown, Sir William Hamilton, 
James Frederick Ferrier, and James McCosh. 
All are included in the Frontispiece. Each 
chapter begins with a biographical discussion 
of the man and digests of his major works, 
each of these sketches having been written by 
an expert in that field (seven of them, in fact, 
by the famous Noah Porter). Then follow sev- 
eral representative selections from the writings 
of each sage. Dr. Robinson himself has written 
an Introduction which ties the chapters to- 
gether, thus completing the story and helping 
the reader to make his own interpretations of 
the selections offered. Because of current in- 
terest in East-West philosophy. Dr. Robinson 
has also added a supplementary essay to the 
chapter on Dugald Stewart, on that thinker's 
relationship with Hindu philosophy. 

While this book is of special interest to phi- 
losophers and teachers of philosophy courses 
because it is the only collection in a single vol- 
ume of the writings of these nine Scottish phi- 
losophers, its usefulness is far more widespread. 
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About the Author 

Dr. Daniel Sommer Robinson's long-standing intellectual reputa- 
tion as author, editor and translator in the fields of philosophy and 
religion began in North Salem, Indiana, where in 1910 he received 
his B.A. degree from Butler College. He went on to receive his M.A. 
and B.D. from Yale University (Magna cum Laucle) and his Ph.D. 
from Harvard. He served as a Navy Chaplain in both World Wars, 
and is today a retired Commander. 

As a teacher of philosophy, he has taught at the University of 
Wisconsin, and also served as Chairman of the Department at Miami 
University (Oxford, Ohio), Indiana University, the University of 
Southern California, and Bethany College. For three years he served 
as President of Butler University, and he has also been honored with 
the presidency of the American Philosophical Association. 

Among his many previously published books which have received 
wide acclaim are The Principles of Reasoning, Crucial Issues in Phi- 
losophy, An Introduction to Living Philosophy and The Principles of